According to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) 11.2 percent of college students, ages 18 to 24 years old, will experience some form of sexual assault while enrolled at a higher education institution.
Aaron Krasnow, associate vice president of ASU's counseling and health services, said research has proven two things to be true about sexual assault in college communities: The victims are disproportionately women, and victims typically know their attacker prior to the incident.
“We obviously know that it (sexual assault) occurs across college campuses, across the nation, across the world — most likely … We know that it’s underreported, and we want to make sure we are addressing it in every possible way we can," ASU Police Chief Michael Thompson said.
Additionally, NAU’s 2016 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report shows that 42 sexual assaults were reported to the NAU Police Department in 2015. The UA’s 2016 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report records 20 reported sexual assaults in Tucson in 2015.
Given the universities’ respected student populations, all of the three Arizona public universities recorded less than one percent of their students reporting sexual assault to the campus police department.
NAU’s report shows the greatest proportion of students experiencing sexual assault at .15 percent. ASU lies in the middle of the three, with .065 percent of their students reporting being sexually assaulted and at UA, only .047 percent of students report being raped or fondled.
When considering percentages, ASU recognizes that the number of reported sexual assaults is relatively low. However, they are not under the impression that the low number of reported incidents guarantees that there are that few sexual assaults.
“It is hard to give an exact number on how many sexual assaults happen on campus. We know from research that sexual assaults are one of the most underreported crimes,” said Lynn Spillers, the Victim Advocate with ASUPD, in a written statement.
“Just looking at what is reported to the ASU Police Department since January 2016, seven sexual assaults have been reported and two sex abuse cases," said Spillers in a written statement. "These numbers do not reflect any sexual assaults reported to the Dean of Students Office-Student Rights and Responsibilities."
Krasnow explains that not all victims react the same way to sexual assault. Some choose to handle the situation independently, some choose to go to ASU Counseling Services and others report the incident to ASUPD or a different ASU entity.
“A lot of times people aren’t interested in talking about that particular part of their experience (reporting process) but really wanting to talk about what happened to them," Krasnow said. "Or maybe they don’t want to talk about what happened to them, but maybe they know they’re being affected by it and they just need a safe space to start that experience."
He continued to explain that ASU Counseling Services is one of the very few entities on campus that are not held to a mandatory reporting requirement. Their confidentiality makes it a safe place for victims of sexual assault to think through their healing processes before choosing whether or not they will report the incident.
ASU has instituted many programs that are intended to prevent sexual assault on campus. Students are required to take online courses on consent and respect, many clubs promote consent and healthy relationships and ASUPD has teamed up with Rape Aggression Defense Systems (R.A.D.) to provide free self-defense classes for female students.
In a written statement, Thompson said, “The greatest criminal concern on campus would be sexual assaults because of the toll it takes on victims. One student becoming a victim of sexual assault is one too many. No one should have to experience sexual violence.”
Reach the opinion editor at Kendra.Penningroth@asu.edu or follow @KPenningroth on Twitter.