Stats Show Sexual Assaults Underreported

By John Hilliard
BU News Service

While three reports of rape and seven other sex offenses were filed with the Boston University Police Department in 2012, officials said such crimes frequently go unreported to police.

BU Deputy Chief Scott Paré said national statistics suggest that as many as 75 percent of sex offenses go unreported to authorities, as some students are reluctant to report a sex offense.

“If we don’t know about it, there’s little we can do about it,” he said.

The 10 incidents reported in 2012 were the highest number reported to BU police since 2007, according to police records.

According to BU police, three of last year’s reports were allegations of rape. Victims involved in two of the alleged rape incidents declined to pursue the matter criminally, while an arrest was made in the third case, police said.

A total of 48 reports of sexual assault were filed from 2007 to 2012, according to BU police, including 10 in 2007. In addition, five reports of sex offenses, including two accusations of rape, have been filed with campus police since January 1 of this year.

In one of those alleged rape cases, the victim didn’t want to pursue criminal charges, BU police said. Information wasn’t available on the second alleged rape incident from this year, BU police said.

According to Boston Police Department statistics, there were a total of 15 rapes or attempted rapes in the city’s District D-4, which includes Boston University, between Jan. 1 and Aug. 27 of this year.

Some of the assaults reported to BU police take place at off-campus parties, where drugs and alcohol can be involved, according to Paré. He said some students who are the victims of a sex offense are reluctant to come forward and identify themselves, and may wait as long as 12 to 24 hours before making a report.

Meg Bossong, manager of community engagement at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center in Boston and Cambridge, agreed that the number of sexual assaults are underreported, and that some victims are reluctant to step forward to seek help because they want to keep the matter confidential.

She noted that BU has been addressing the issue of sexual assault, and opened its sexual assault response office as a result of its investigation into allegations of rapes committed by the school’s hockey team.

“I do think Boston University has a lot of work to do, but that’s not a slight against the university,” she said in an interview.

In a follow-up e-mail, Bossong indicated that some institutions limit the scope of the problem.

“At the moment, I think many campuses confine it to a student (mental) health issue or distance the university from any assault that occurs by constructing it as an individual, rather than a campus culture, issue,” she wrote.

Colleges and universities need to offer staff more training on how to better respond to sex offense victims, she wrote.

Staff should also be better trained to respond to what she called “sexually aggressive” or inappropriate behavior when it arises, she said. Schools also have to prioritize sexual violence as a critical issue that won’t be tolerated, she said.

In a 2007 study prepared for the National Institute of Justice, nearly 29 percent of 5,446 women surveyed said they had experienced an attempted or completed sexual assault.

The interview subjects were between the ages of 18 to 25 and were undergraduates at one of two unnamed American universities, according to the survey’s researchers.

At Boston University, the crime of sexual assault made national headlines when two members of the men’s hockey team faced accusations of assaulting women in late 2011 and early 2012.

One of the players, Corey Trivino, pled guilty in Brighton District Court in August 2012 to two counts of assault and battery and one count of trespassing after a female student accused him of entering her dorm room and groping her in December 2011, according to media reports.

Trivino left BU and signed with the minor league Stockton Thunder hockey team in California on Oct. 4, according to a team statement. Charges against the second BU hockey player were dismissed by a Brighton District Court judge last year, according to media reports.

The incidents led a university board to review the school’s hockey team, and in a report, that panel found some players engaged in a “culture of sexual entitlement” that contributed to behaviors that put many BU students at risk.

BU opened the Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center last year based upon a board recommendation to create an office for providing on-campus services for victims of sexual assault. Paré said the SARP office also allows victims of sexual assaults to report incidents anonymously.

Working on her laptop outside of the student union building on a recent Monday, BU senior Alexa Sarmanian said she was unsure if there was anything more the university could do to make it easier for a victim of a sex offense to report an incident.

She said that those who do speak out face backlash and “social consequences” from some fellow students.

“They don’t feel comfortable reporting it,” said Sarmanian.

Aside from the reports of rape, the remaining seven reported sex offenses from 2012 were indecent assault and battery cases, BU police said. One incident led to an arrest, while two others resulted in court summons being issued against suspects, according to BU police.

A fourth incident was referred to the university’s judicial affairs department, while action was not taken in the remaining two cases, police said. Boston Police assumed jurisdiction in the remaining indecent assault and battery case, according to the university department.

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