There were 19 reported instances of rape and 23 reported instances of fondling at Boston College in 2018, according to the Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report, released on Aug. 30. Both numbers declined from 2017, during which there were 39 reported rapes and 26 reported fondlings.
These statistics were published in accordance with the Clery Act, which requires all colleges and universities receiving federal funding to release an annual public safety report detailing campus crime statistics and the school’s efforts to improve campus safety before Oct. 1 of the year.
It is impossible to tell whether fewer rapes and fondlings actually took place on campus last year or if fewer students came forward to report them, according to Melinda Stoops, associate vice president for Student Health and Wellness and student Title IX coordinator.
“I don’t have the answer to that question, and sadly, no one does,” Stoops said.
Prior to 2018, reports of both rape and fondling had risen every year since 2014, the first year individual statistics were collected for the two categories. There were 28 reported rapes in 2016, 23 in 2015, and 22 in 2014. There were seven reported fondlings in 2016, four in 2015, and one in 2014.
Prior to the 2014 data set, rape and fondling statistics were reported as one category: “Sex Offenses – Forcible.” There were 11 forcible sex offenses reported in 2013, five in 2012, and seven in 2011.
Stoops noted that the campus safety report doesn’t list all of the reports related to sexual misconduct that BC receives in a given year—it only shows the numbers related to the specific crimes required for reporting under the Clery Act. Instances of exploitation and gender-based harassment are two numbers that aren’t reported in Clery Act statistics, for example.
“Because we don’t have to report it, we don’t do the same process for those other incidents,” Stoops said. “So I have my own records that I keep … but we don’t sit down and compare those across campus. And I think it’s really just the volume of work involved in that and what it keeps us from doing to do that.”
Although the number of reported rapes and fondlings decreased from 2017 to 2018, the number of overall reports related to sexual misconduct—including reports of rape and fondling—has still continued to increase, Stoops said.
“I do think that students continue to report incidents of sexual misconduct—that I and other people on campus who receive reports still have students coming to us,” Stoops said. “We work really hard to educate students about how to report, and so I feel like that’s all really strong.”
The report also only lists reported crimes that occurred within BC’s “Clery geography,” which includes on-campus property, public property that is within or immediately adjacent to campus, and non-campus property that is owned or controlled by BC and frequently used by students for educational purposes.
“It doesn’t tell you the number of reports we got that maybe happened on someone else’s campus, or off campus in a student apartment, or [to] a student on Spring Break,” Stoops said. “And so it’s a piece of the picture, but not the whole picture.”
As required by the 2013 Violence Against Women Act, the report also discloses the reported instances of dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking—of which there were three, one, and eight instances, respectively, reported in 2018.
The BC Police Department’s public safety director compiles the statistics from the BC police logs, reports from campus security authorities, the database of the Office of the Dean for Student Development and Residential Life, and responses from public police agencies, according to the report.
“We do take a comprehensive approach to getting the numbers, but the numbers are what they are in a given year,” Stoops said.
Stoops said it is important for students to understand that it is still useful to report incidents of sexual misconduct, even if they don’t want to pursue criminal or student conduct charges against the person who committed them. Reporting the crime helps BC track what has happened—and where—as well educate people about campus safety.
“If it’s an act of a Clery crime that occurred on campus, that is something that we track for our statistics, and it helps educate people about our campus safety, and in this case, incidents of sexual violence,” Stoops said. “If people don’t report, we don’t know that something’s happened.”
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