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25 News: Campus Sex Assault Numbers To Rise: Counselors Hope New Law Will Encourage Reporting

Campus Sex Assault Numbers To Rise: Counselors Hope New Law Will Encourage Reporting

By Tyler Lopez

 At Illinois State University, just over 20,000 students roam the campus in Normal.
Most, 54%, are women.
Yet only 14 rapes were reported last year, 2 of those were off campus.

Despite current numbers that show these crimes apparently happen only to 1/10th of 1% of the women, we found that personal safety is certainly on the minds of these female students.

“It’s not really a big concern. But I do have, like, precautions like pepper spray and stuff,” said Olivija Petry, a freshman at ISU.

“If she tells someone, they’ll say, like, it was her fault. (she’s) Kind of having that barrier, holding it in,” said Osha King, a junior education major. “I try to kind of watch my surroundings um, usually like this; one earbud in, one earbud out so I can listen and hear.”

Counselors though, have a different story to tell. More and more students are now being counted, often anonymously, as they come forward.

“With more reporting, survivors have more access to services,” said Gail Trimpe-Morrow, Coordinator of Sexual Assault Prevention and Survivor Services at Illinois State University.

The change began August 1st, as the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act took effect, mandating more reports be included and accessible online, including the reports federal law often ruled out.

In just two months of this year, August and September,- known as the “Rape Red Zone” – Illinois State University took 18 sexual offense reports, which is more than all of the reported sex assaults in 2015.

“I don’t think there are more assaults. I think we’re doing a pretty good job of encouraging reporting. But I hope that it provides more options for reporting. Which, I think, is a good thing,” Trimpe-Morrow said.

Students can choose their reporting route: police, the federal Title IX compliance officer, a campus counselor, even an anonymous phone line. The law also clarifies that even if an alleged victim was drinking under the age of 21 when the incident in question took place, they are not likely to face a charge.
That’s important because Gail says 70 to 75% of the sexual assault cases brought to her office have some connection to alcohol.

“So part of our role is clarifying for survivors, yeah, the consequence for getting drunk is not getting raped,” Trimpe-Morrow said.
“What’s the worst thing that happened here? And it’s not underage drinking.”

Advocates say this new approach is welcome.

“And so this, I believe, puts all colleges on the same playing field,” said Julie Borland, Director of Sexual Assault and Advocacy Services for The Center For Prevention of Abuse in Peoria. “I hope that it works.”

There are other innovations too. Like an app called Reach Out. It allows survivors from at least 15 Illinois schools, including Bradley, to file a report anonymously, using this all-important device. And it does include emergency services.

To watch the video click this link —>