PRINCETON: University report show increased reporting of rapes, sex assaults

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Nassau Hall

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Princeton University had six reported rapes on campus last year, although there were more sex offenses reported to confidential counselors rather than to university officials, according to the annual crime summary the school recently published.
The federally mandated Clery report covered a range of crimes that had occurred on campus, in non-campus buildings or property and public property for the past three years.
In the document, the university reported a total of seven rapes, three fondling incidents, one aggravated assault, 25 burglaries, 10 motor vehicle thefts and one arson during 2015. Those numbers reflected a decrease compared to 2014 for every one of those categories except for arson, which total remained the same.
As for other crimes, the school had 18 domestic violence offenses, up from seven in 2014, and 12 arrests for liquor law violations and 14 for drug abuse violations.
Elsewhere in the report, 29 sexual offenses were reported to confidential university counselors, who are prohibited from sharing that information with other university officials unless given permission to do so.
The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office said this week that it had investigated three sexual assault allegations from last year. In one of the cases, a man was charged with criminal trespass, while another man was charged with burglary and criminal sexual contact. The third investigation ended without a criminal prosecution, the Prosecutor’s Office said.
In terms of the offenses reported to confidential counselors, the Prosecutor’s Office said it would not probe those, and only would get involved “if and when” a victim wants to go to the police.
For its part, the university said the Clery report shows the campus is safe.
“The safety and well being of students, faculty and staff are the university’s highest priority, and the latest statistics in our Annual Security and Fire Safety Report demonstrate that the university has an extremely safe and secure campus,” Princeton spokesman John D. Cramer said by email Wednesday. “We believe this is based on the combined efforts of our Department of Public Safety and other members of the university community to raise awareness about prevention and support services offered on campus.”
Yet a survey in 2015 of graduate and undergraduate students showed sex crimes occur more often than get reported to authorities. Seventeen percent of respondents said they had been raped or sexually assaulted in the 2014-15 school year, part of what Nassau Hall called “heartbreaking” findings.
The federal government has required, within the past few years, schools to have all their new students and employees attend prevention and awareness programs specific to sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking, said Abigail Boyer, associate director with the Clery Center for Security on Campus, by phone Wednesday.
She said that there is more of “a culture of reporting” offenses on campuses now than as recently as five years ago.
“We believe the increased reports of domestic violence are due to a rise in reporting rather than an actual increase in the number of incidents. For example, some of the reports this year are from non-campus properties,” Mr. Cramer said. “The university is making a significant effort to improve community awareness of domestic violence, intimate partner violence and dating violence, and that awareness makes students feel more comfortable coming forward to report an incident.