SPECIAL REPORT: Investigating sex assault reporting on local college campuses

Investigating sex assault reporting on local college campuses

TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, every 2 minutes another American is sexually assaulted. In fact, it is estimated that one in five women will be sexually assaulted during her college career.

It is clear that too many assaults are happening on college campuses. Many will never be reported. But, what about the ones that are reported: are we seeing these assailants brought to justice?

WTOL Investigative Reporter Ashley James has been looking into the number of sexual assaults reported from two northwest Ohio universities. She focused on how many went through the student code of conduct process and how many accused persons were found “responsible.”

If a sexual assault is handled through the university's student code of conduct process there is an investigation, followed by a hearing in front of a panel. That panel goes on to decide what punishment, if any, those involved will face.

The University of Toledo says 27 sexual assaults involving students have been reported to the university since 2009. Of those 27, the victim in 16 cases chose to utilize the school's student code of conduct process. In just 5 of those cases UT found at least one person “responsible.”

Kelly Phillips, a sexual assault victims' advocate with the YWCA says the number of cases where no one was found “responsible” seems high.

"Well of course it seems high especially when averages of 2 percent of cases are false, of course were going to want to see 98 percent of sexual assault claims where the perpetrator is brought to justice. That's not really happening though,” said Phillips.

Dr. Kaye Patten Wallace, UT's Senior Vice President of Student Affairs says the numbers don't paint the whole picture.

"Well I say we don't focus on the numbers we look at each case, we look at the facts of each case… I don't want to talk about overall numbers. I do think it's important that each case stands on its own,” said Dr. Wallace.

The University of Toledo came under fire in September after

over the way the institution handled her sexual assault case. We

and since then have been pressing UT on its sexual assault policies --including the student code of conduct process. Recently, the school

“Based on

we've made changes to our adjudication process for sexual misconduct cases so that only faculty and staff will be on that panel. There will no longer be student peers as part of that adjudication panel,” said Dr. Wallace.

UT say other factors also contributed to the decision to change the process. There was a push from the school's student body government, saying many students don't feel comfortable reporting sexual assaults if their peers know about it.

Just 25 miles to the south on I-75, Bowling Green State University's sexual assault statistics seem to tell a different story. BGSU has seen 61 sexual assaults reported to the university since 2009. Of those 61, victims in 20 cases chose to go through the student code of conduct process. The university found at least one person responsible in 17 of those 20 cases. In one other case a victim did not show up to the scheduled hearing, meaning BGSU found an accused person “not responsible” in just 2 of 20 cases.

Julie Snyder, Bowling Green State University Associate Dean of Students, says the school does a good job of holding perpetrators responsible.

“I think if you look at the numbers you presented and the hearing finding people responsible we take the issue seriously on campus. Any number above zero is too many for us and we need to hold people accountable,” said Synder.

While 61 sexual assaults reported may seem like a lot, BGSU Police Chief Monica Moll says compared to other schools similar in size and location to BGSU, the numbers are about average. Moll says she believes there are probably more assaults that go unreported.

“Sometimes as the reports go up we think we're doing a better job making victims feel comfortable coming forward but that's not the public perspective. They're thinking that's an unsafe school, but in many respects those are the safest schools where folks feel comfortable coming forward,” said Moll.

While UT recently made the change to their student code of conduct adjudication panel, BGSU says they will continue to use students on their panels in sexual assault and other cases.

“We've never had a student say I'm uncomfortable with my peers on the board and in fact what we've seen over time is those people have the least tolerance for the behaviors are their peers, because they live in this environment," said Snyder.

Students can use an app called “Lifeline Response,” which works as a personal panic button to alert police both on and off campus.

“If activated it calls law enforcement and uses the GPS location to provide to law enforcement for response,” said UT Police Chief Jeff Newtown.

Newtown says UT is considering a partnership with iCitizen, which currently works with the City of Toledo to alert residents to crime calls in their area via text message.

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