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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Many sexual assaults go unreported

Data from an annual report and expert testimony indicates that sexual assaults may be significantly underreported at Chico State.

At Chico State, five sexual assaults were reported on campus in 2012, according to the 2013 Clery Report, an annual compilation of crimes reported at Chico State.

“It is unfortunate but true that a percentage of sexual assaults are not reported.”

-Lt. Corrine Beck of the University Police Department

The report is required by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure Act, a federal statute that requires all colleges and universities to publish their campus crime statistics annually. It summarizes sexual assaults and other crimes that occur on or adjacent to the university campuses.

As much as 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported in the U.S., according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

“It is unfortunate but true that a percentage of sexual assaults are not reported,” wrote Lt. Corrine Beck of the University Police Department in an email to The Orion.

For every eight out of ten sexual assault incidents, the perpetrator is someone that the victim knows, according to Chico State’s website.

This could be the primary reason why many sexual assaults go unreported, said Rocky Cruz, director of Rape Crisis Intervention, a 24-hour sexual assault call line in Chico.

“Society was raised to believe that it’s a stranger that rapes, when a high percentage of rapists are known to us,” Cruz said. “Just because you add that component into it, it’s going to be harder for people to report.”

Out of 431 calls reporting rape in Butte County this year, 43 were received from confirmed Chico State students, Cruz said. The number could be higher, but many callers do not disclose where they go to school.

Cruz has worked with the call line for 23 years. During that time, he has spoken with thousands of men and women who have been sexually violated.

“We as a society have done a real fucked up job not making people feel safe enough to report,” Cruz said. “It’s because we victim-blame. It’s because we’re saying ‘well, what were you doing drinking? Why did you go out partying? Why did you go up to their room? Why did you give them a ride? Why did you have sex with them ten minutes ago?’”

There were 38 rapes reported to the Chico Police Department in 2012, according to an annual crime report.

That year, Chico’s population was around 87,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The process of collecting evidence from victims may also be causing underreporting, Cruz said.

Evidence is preserved through a sexual assault exam at the hospital, said Chico Police Sgt. Rob Merrifield.

“All of the evidence is important to be locked down right away since it’s transient and can be lost over time,” Merrifield said.

Fibers, hair and DNA evidence are collected from the survivor’s body, Merrifield said. Physical injuries are photographed and documented. Police also gather indirect testimony from people like friends and eyewitnesses.

“For example, if the allegation is that the victim was too intoxicated to give consent, then it would be important for the people who were with the victim to speak to her level of intoxication and what the interaction with the suspect was,” Merrifield said.

Chico Police allow people who are sexually assaulted to be accompanied by a friend or counselor while the evidence is collected, Merrifield said. The patrol officer handling the initial report is also responsible for identifying the crime scene and evidence.

The most common sexual assault crime scene is the victim’s apartment room, Merrifield said.

Law enforcement officials are working to alleviate underreporting, Beck said.

“We would like all victims to feel comfortable reporting an incident to the police,” she said. “We are, above all else, interested in ensuring victims get needed resources. However, the decision of whether or not to report a crime remains the victim’s decision.”

Publishing Clery data on sexual assaults, regardless of the numbers, is vital for awareness of the crime, Cruz said.

“Until O.J. Simpson was on television for 134 days, people didn’t think there was a such a thing as domestic violence,” Cruz said. “These reports can validate the experience of those thousands of people that have never come forward. It’s saying that we have a serious issue that we need to have looked at.”


Mozes Zarate can be reached at [email protected] or @mzarate139 on Twitter.

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