Reports of sexual violence received by the state’s two largest public universities increased by nearly double from 2016 to 2018, according to crime statistics released this week.

The University of Oklahoma’s annual Sooner Safety and Fire Report for 2019 states that the university received 17 reports of rape on campus property last year, compared to 10 in 2017 and nine in 2016. Sixteen of the on-campus reports made last year were about incidents within campus housing. Two other rapes were reported on a noncampus property, such as fraternity and sorority houses, and six were reported on public property adjacent to school property.

At Oklahoma State University’s Stillwater campus, reports of rape rose to 25 in 2018 — nearly double the 13 reported in 2017, according to OSU’s Safety Matters Annual Security Report. Of those, 17 were about allegations in on-campus housing. OSU-Stillwater had seven rape reports in 2016.

The University of Tulsa saw 11 reports of rape in 2018, its lowest number since at least 2016 and a drop from 18 reports in 2017.

Oral Roberts University reported receiving zero rape reports in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Morgan Dewey, communications director for advocacy organization End Rape on Campus, said the increase in reported incidents at places such as OU and OSU has been common in the wake of survivor-friendly reforms to Title IX — a federal anti-discrimination law — made toward the end of former President Barack Obama’s administration. However, she said the rate of reports is proof that sexual violence is still “an epidemic” facing college students.

“One in five women will be sexually assaulted in college,” Dewey said. “We know that harm is happening on campuses. Hopefully, students and survivors using these systems and filing these reports means they felt safe and comfortable” enough to do so.

Meanwhile, officials at OU and OSU said the data are indicative of their institutions’ commitments to promote accurate reporting of sex offenses.

“The university invests significant personnel and resources to keep the campus one of the safest in the region and to go beyond federal regulations and laws,” OSU Communications Director Monica Roberts said. “We invest heavily in sexual assault awareness and prevention programs, and our students know we take this matter very seriously, which contributes to an increase in reporting.”

Similarly, OU Communications Director Kesha Keith said OU improved educational efforts and worked to streamline communication between the school’s Title IX office and the OU Police Department in order to increase the likelihood of accurate reporting. She said OU’s Gender + Equality Center offers students required sexual misconduct prevention training, as well as advocacy services and education on preventing gender-based violence.

Roberts said OSU recently received a $549,000 grant from the Office on Violence Against Women to help prevent gender-based violence and bolster support for survivors.

Institutions receiving public funds are required to release annual reports in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. The statistics on crimes take into account information received by campus law enforcement, campus security authorities and local law enforcement, as well as groups such as residential life and offices of student affairs.

Dewey said the “Dear Colleague” letter published in 2011 included helpful guidelines for schools from then-Vice President Joe Biden regarding legal requirements related to reports of sexual violence and the use of Title IX. Students can be found responsible for violations of Title IX during internal disciplinary proceedings related to sexual violence allegations.

“Since they changed the way and improved the way schools were complying with Title IX, there was an increase in reports because schools began supporting survivors more,” Dewey said of the resulting nationwide upward trend in reports. “Schools were making it more transparent on how they would work with students in the Title IX process.”

She said she is concerned about the possible impact of proposed Title IX amendments from U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, as they would reduce the degree of oversight from that agency. Dewey said the amendments, if put into effect, could lead to a reduction in reports in future years.

Dewey said it is important for schools — regardless of the potential of negative actions of the federal government — to continue to provide a wide variety of options for students, from community healing groups to agencies that can take disciplinary or legal action.

“It’s really not difficult as long as schools are intentional about realizing the reality of these survivors’ lives,” Dewey said.


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Samantha Vicent

918-581-8321

samantha.vicent@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @samanthavicent

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