The sharp spike in reported allegations of rape at Baylor University between 2014 and 2015 might seem to work against efforts to draw more students and reassure them of their safety, but the latest Clery Act numbers should reassure all in one regard: Experts in sexual violence say the institutions of higher learning that should especially concern us are those that report few or no allegations of sexual violence.
After all, that could mean student victims of sexual violence are being discouraged from reporting such crimes or a university is using subterfuge to hide such incidents from public view.
While the scourge of sexual violence will probably long be with us, the fact that reports of rape at Baylor nearly quadrupled in 2015 from the previous year could suggest Baylor’s hiring of a full-time Title IX coordinator in late 2014 has yielded dividends. Such officials encourage victims claiming sexual violence to come forward to report allegations.
As Tribune-Herald higher-education staff writer Phillip Ericksen reported in Wednesday’s paper, the federal Clery Act requires colleges and universities to report yearly crime statistics, including incidents of sexual violence. The tally for 2015 shows 23 rapes reported at Baylor in 2015, up from six rapes reported there in 2014, five forcible sex offenses in 2013, two in 2012 and, astonishingly, none between 2009 and 2011. In fact, these latter numbers helped contribute to some skepticism about how Baylor interpreted and reported its crime statistics even a few years ago.
None of this explains exactly what happened this month when Baylor Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford resigned her post amid claims she encountered resistance in her efforts from senior Baylor leadership over the summer. But the numbers do suggest students increasingly know something of Title IX protections and safeguards, including ensuring that victims of sexual violence can continue their education without such hurdles as, say, landing in the same class with their alleged perpetrators.
Clery Act numbers are only part of a far more complicated story. Complaints of sexual assault are just that — complaints, allegations, and not legally resolved matters of guilt or innocence. This raises yet another glaring issue: colleges and universities trying to adjudicate such matters in a manner that offers compassionate respect to the accuser while maintaining strict due-process rights for the accused. Underlining it all: the looming question of how to truly prevent rapes.