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Sexual assault reports increase this semester

More Miami University students have reported being sexually assaulted in the last three months than in any other semester in recent history.

The number of students reporting sexual assaults and choosing to follow through with the university’s complaint process through Miami’s community standards office has also increased this semester. 

Since the beginning of the school year, Miami and Oxford police have received 40 sexual assault reports.

During the 2018-2019 school year, students reported 41 total sexual assaults: 28 in the fall and 13 in the spring. These numbers include incidents that happened on campus and in Oxford, as well as assaults reported last year that occurred in previous semesters. 

But the 40 assaults that were reported this semester do not include the number of incidents that were ruled to be unfounded, meaning the report was investigated and deemed to be false or baseless.

Lori Minges, Clery Act coordinator for the Miami University Police Department, said that the 13 assaults reported from the 2018-2019 spring semester aren’t finalized because MUPD doesn’t analyze all of their Clery data until the end of the year. The Clery Act requires that universities disclose on-campus crimes and implement safety policies.  

Of the 40 assaults reported this semester, seven were through the Oxford Police Department (OPD), and the rest were through MUPD. Students received safety bulletins for five of them. 

Safety reports are only sent out for crimes that might pose a danger to students. For sexual assaults, this typically means a student reported it right after the assault happened. 

After a report is filed, Deputy Title IX Coordinator Gabby Dralle will reach out to students and present them with options. They can choose whether they would like to file a formal complaint, which signifies they would like to proceed with the investigation process. They can also be referred to resources such as Women Helping Women or to Student Counseling Services. 

If a student chooses to file a complaint, the university’s investigator, Wesley Highley, will look into the incident. He will decide if there is reasonable cause to move forward with a disciplinary hearing.  

This semester, 62.5 percent more students chose to file a complaint compared to the last fiscal year. Director of Community Standards Ann James said it’s too early to see how many more people will be found guilty, as many of the cases are still being heard. 

“It’s what we want to see because we know it’s not like it’s not happening; if we got zero reports, that wouldn’t mean zero sexual assaults were happening,” James said. “Whenever I see the reporting numbers go up, it makes me feel slightly gratified that something good is happening.” 

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Dralle said she doesn’t have any way of knowing for certain what caused the increase, but she suspects campus culture has played a role. 

“I would think that there is new energy on campus that has played into [reporting],” she said. “What I’ve noticed in my little over a year that I’ve been here is that the students care about this issue; it is talked about, so I think that definitely plays into it.” 

She said she’s seen more students this year self-reporting instead of coming in because of a report from a mandatory reporter such as an RA or professor. She has also seen students who came in because a friend went through the process.

Dralle makes an effort to make herself available to students within a couple of days of initial contact. 

“I’ve done this work at other campuses, and I do feel like the team here genuinely cares and wants to do a good job, and I think that does make a difference,” she said. 

Dralle said she plans to implement a survey in the spring for students who go through her office to get a better idea of why students are reporting and if they felt supported through the process. She also hopes to increase education on how to report and to redesign the website, making it more accessible.

Miami’s sexual assault resource guide can be accessed here. Along with information on the reporting process, the site offers advice on what to do if you or someone you know is sexually assaulted.

Sexual assault survivors who wish to report an incident can contact campus security enforcement, including the Miami University Police Department at 513-519-2222, the Oxford Police Department at 513-523-4321, the Coordinator of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program at 513-529-1870 and any athletic coaches, academic or student organization advisor. 

If students wish to speak to a non-mandatory reporter for confidential support, they can call or text Miami’s campus-based support specialists from WomenHelpingWomen at 513-431-1111.

A former version of this article listed Gabby Dralle as the title IX coordinator. She is the deputy title IX coordinator. It also incorrectly listed a lack of evidence as a reason a report can be ruled unfounded.