Harvard Sees Rise in Reported Rapes

Thirty-eight rapes were reported on Harvard's Cambridge campus in 2015, an increase from the 33 rapes reported in 2014.

With that number, Harvard leads the Ivy League in reported rapes by double digits, according to federally mandated annual reports released by each university's’ police department.

Alicia Oeser, director of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, said the data may be a positive sign, potentially indicating more victims may be aware of resources available to them.

“It is impossible to say exactly what the higher numbers mean, but national data suggests that the rate of incidents has remained relatively steady over the years,” Oeser wrote in an email. “An increase in the number of reports is more reflective of a growing population as well as an increase in and awareness of resources supporting survivors.”

Cases of burglary, dating violence, and fondling at Harvard’s Cambridge campus also all increased from 2014 levels, according to the Harvard University Police Department security report released in accordance with the Clery Act.

In the Ivy League, the second highest number of reported rapes occurred at Dartmouth College, where 20 rapes were reported. By comparison, 17 were reported at Yale, seven at Princeton, and two at Cornell. One of the 38 rapes reported at Harvard was deemed to be “unfounded,” defined by HUPD as “any report of a crime that is found to be false or baseless” after an investigation by law enforcement.

The HUPD report divides incidents into on-campus crimes and public crimes. Public crimes, which accounted for the greatest increase, are defined as occurring on “all public property, including thoroughfares, streets, sidewalks, and parking facilities that is within the campus, or immediately adjacent to and accessible from campus.” Public crimes—which includes categories like motor vehicle theft, robbery, and domestic violence—rose to 60 crimes in 2015 from 29 the year before, whereas reported on-campus crimes rose slightly to 115 from 112.

The report also lists 18 total cases of fondling on the Cambridge campus in 2015, up from 10 in 2014. There were two reported cases of fondling on Harvard’s Longwood campus in Boston. Reports of dating violence, defined by HUPD as “violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim” tripled from four reports in 2014, to 12 reports in 2015.

Harvard is mandated to release crime statistics from all of its campuses, including international locations in Greece and Chile. However, there were almost no crimes reported on any campus except Cambridge and Longwood.

These statistics come a little more than a year since Harvard unveiled the results of its sexual climate survey that University President Drew G. Faust called “anguishing.” Since then, the University has engaged in a series of efforts to prevent sexual assault on campus, including unveiling a sexual assault online training module which all undergraduate students are required to complete by mid-October.

“The hope is that Harvard’s initiatives between the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response (OSAPR) and Title IX will build on each other and will ultimately lead to more successful prevention efforts, diminishing the number of incidents that occur,” Oeser wrote.

The annual Clery Act report, entitled “Playing it Safe,” was emailed to Harvard affiliates on Oct. 1 and includes three years of crime statistics from 2013 to 2015, descriptions of safety protocol, and pertinent information about HUPD and other campus offices.

Reported burglaries increased slightly on campus from 40 in 2014 to 43 in 2015. HUPD defines burglary as “the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft.” In an email, HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano encouraged Harvard affiliates to “take advantage of the services, resources, and advice on how to keep themselves and their property safe.”

Despite the total of 175 reported Clery Act crimes on Harvard’s Cambridge campus in 2015, at the report’s outset HUPD Chief Francis D. “Bud” Riley wrote that while there were relatively low levels of crime on Harvard’s campuses, readers must remain vigilant.

“Although reported crime at Harvard is low (and about 93% of it is property crime), it is important for students, faculty, staff and visitors to remember we are located in an urban setting and must contend with many of the crime and safety issues that exist in the city,” Riley wrote.

—Staff writer Joshua J. Florence can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaFlorence1.


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