Report Cites Higher Rape Statistics

While last month’s rapes still linger on the minds of undergraduates, an annual report sent out by the administration this week has taken some students aback.

Between 2008 and 2010, about four rapes were reported to the Harvard University Police Department each year. The number of rapes on campus, however, is much higher—an average 15 per year—according to the University report.

The report, entitled Playing It Safe, includes statistics from three years worth of “reported campus or campus-related crimes.”

According to HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano, the larger number is a composite of the formal assaults reported to HUPD and the confidential reports made to the University Health Services and the Office of Sexual Assault and Prevention.

Several Harvard students found the larger figure alarming.

“When I thought it was just four assaults, I was scared,” said Aria N. Bendix ’15. “Even four is four too many.”

UHS spokesperson Lindsey Garofalo said that 95 percent of the confidential reports come from OSAPR, with the remaining from UHS.

Some students said they suspect that the number of rapes on campus each year may be higher than 15, but that victims of assault may be hesitant to come forward.

“I imagine there are more assaults that aren’t reported,” said LuSheng Xu ’15. “I think 15 is a small number for a school this big.”

Garofalo stated that many victims of sexual assault are reluctant to report the assault. “While we work hard to eliminate barriers to reporting, the reality is that it is a very difficult and personal decision. Nationally, sexual assault remains one of the most underreported crimes for a variety of reasons ranging from fears about public reactions to not wanting to continue thinking about the experience,” she said.

According to a report on sexual assault on college campuses compiled by the National Institute of Justice, rape and other forms of sexual assault tend not to be reported as consistently as other types of crime. The report states that “more than 35 percent [of reported victims] said they did not report the incident because they were unclear as to whether a crime was committed or that harm was intended.”

The report also states that approximately 3 percent of all college women become victims of either completed or attempted rape in the academic year.

According to Garofalo, victims of sexual assault may choose to report the incident to UHS or OSAPR, which works with victims in many capacities, as an alternative to the HUPD. Victims that report the crime to HUPD can make the decision whether to file a formal complaint or criminal charges against the perpetrator.

—Staff writer Julia K. Dean can be reached at juliadean@college.harvard.edu.

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