#collegesafety | Uptick in sexual assaults reported on area campuses

Published: 10/16/2019 11:28:24 PM

AMHERST — Area colleges have released their annual reports of on- and off-campus crime, as required by federal law, and the data shows that most recorded small increases in the number of on-campus sexual assaults.

Under the Clery Act, all colleges and universities that receive federal funding must report crime statistics and publish these figures annually. This year’s reports, which reflect crimes that either occurred or were reported in 2018, also includes criminal, domestic, and hate crime offenses, as well as arrests and referrals for disciplinary action.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst, which has an undergraduate enrollment of 22,726 students, recorded 22 on-campus rapes and nine fondlings. UMass reported 15 and 16 on-campus rapes in 2017 and 2016, respectively.

Amherst College reported 15 on-campus rapes, up from 12 in 2017 and five in 2016, and 15 fondlings in 2018.

Smith College reported three rapes on campus in 2018, down from eight in 2017 and five in 2016, and no fondling incidents.

Hampshire College reported four rapes and one fondling on campus last year, up slightly up from three rapes and one fondling in 2017, but a decrease from seven rapes and two fondlings in 2016.

Mount Holyoke College recorded seven reports of on-campus rapes, up from one in 2017 and five in 2016.

Holyoke Community College, which is nonresidential, did not report any rapes on or off campus for the last three years, and the only reported act of fondling within this time period was in 2016. 

The Clery Act, which was signed in 1990, is named for Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old student at Lehigh University who was raped and murdered in her dorm room in 1986. The statute encourages transparency in crime statistics, and also “enhances safety on campus because it provides information not only on crime statistics but also about what services and resources are available on campus,” said John Carter, chief of police at Amherst College. 

Clery statistics do not necessarily indicate the exact numbers of certain crimes taking place on college campuses, Carter said in response to the number of sexual assault cases reported at Amherst College, which has an enrollment 1,849 students. In the case of sexual assaults, statistics “could just mean that there’s a heightened awareness and more willingness to report,” Carter said, “and that our Title IX coordinator is a very trusted resource to our students.”

While Clery data provides a glimpse into the crimes that occur on college campuses, it does not present the whole picture for sexual crimes. The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that just under a quarter of sexual assaults are reported to authorities.

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