SAPA says only five percent of sexual assaults reported
More than 20 sexual assault cases occur on campuses each week said Sexual Aggression Services Director Stephen Thompson.
However, the national sexual report rate is maybe five in 100, he said.
CMU Police Chief Bill Yeagley said since 2008 only 12 sexual assault have been reported on campus and a majority of assaults go unreported.
“Pretty typically, less than 10 percent of those incidents get reported to us,” he said.
There are many reasons a victim does not report a sexual assault, Yeagley said, including: the victim personally knows the attacker, or the victim is worried the community or campus will recognize them. A majority of sexual assault investigations point to alcohol as a factor, he said.
“With a high percentage of these incidents, either the victim and/or the suspect consumed alcohol before these incidents occur,” he said.
According to the Michigan Incident Crime Reporting analysis, there were 3,290 first-degree sexual penetration assaults reported to the police in 2011. Of those victims, 97 percent were female and 71 percent of victims were white.
The report shows there was some form of relationship between the victim and the offender in the majority of sexual assaults that occurred, with only 12 percent of offenders considered to be strangers.
Central Michigan University’s Sexual Aggression Peer Advocates leads the country in sexual awareness and prevention, Thompson said, yet many victims don’t take advantage of the program and many don’t report the incident to the police.
SAPA is in direct contact with roughly 250 survivors each year, which is not a lot compared to the number of students at CMU, he said.
“Thirty years ago, the police and prosecutors were the problem,” Thompson said. “Today, it’s the people that don’t want to come forward.”
He said many times the survivor just wants to talk to an advocate, rather than report the incident to the police.
“Survivors want to forget. They don’t want to have it keep brought up by going to court,” he said. “Our system here is survivor centered. There’s no pressure one way or another.”
The program offers help face to face, through a crisis line and victims can also chat online.
“SAPA and the university is so supportive of survivors,” Thompson said. “The problem is the people closest to survivor don’t give them the support.”
Aside from SAPA, CMU also provides a variety of prevention tools, including safe rides, blue lights to immediately alert police, sexual assault classes, marked police cars, video cameras in isolated areas, dorm desk personnel and residence hall directors.
“CMU is literally the leader in the country on this issue; we’ve got the best system in the country here,” Thompson said.
Thompson said the 52 SAPA advisers not only spend close to 100 hours training, they also are taught to advertise the program.
“There are students who don’t realize the service exists,” he said.
With the lack of sexual assault reports comes the lack of suspects prosecuted. Yeagley said only one report has resulted in an arrest in the last four years.
There are typically two types of sexual assault situations: the victim knows the suspect or the victim doesn’t know the suspect, Yeagley said.
“The ones that get reported more often are the ones where it’s a stranger,” he said. “Those are much more difficult to solve. There’s very little interaction so there’s very little to go on.”
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