Fifteen cases of forcible sexual offenses were reported in the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report 2015 — a jump from the eight cases reported the year before — but the number may not be indicative of the actual amount of sexual assault cases that occur on campus.
“It doesn’t tell the full story,” said Mark Welker, who began as Director of Campus Safety this year following the retirement of John Schlaf.
Cases reflected in the report also don’t reflect all Title IX cases — according to college documents, Knox resolved 23 cases of student-on-student sexual assaults in the 2014-2015 academic year; of those, two occurred in a prior year but resulted in a sanction this year.
The discrepancy in numbers is twofold: Cases that are deemed Title IX don’t always fall under the ASF. Title IX also files cases per academic year, and ASF handles incidents on a calendar year. Because 2015 is not over, the most recent data reflected in the ASF is from 2014.
Still, just because there are more reported cases of sexual assault doesn’t mean there’s necessarily more sexual assault, Welker noted.
“It tells me that I don’t think sexual assault is going up around the country. I think there’s just a greater awareness and comfort of victims to step forward and report,” he said.
The cases reported also didn’t all occur in 2014. In fact, of the 15 forcible sex offenses reported, only six occurred in 2014 — the remainder of the cases occurred in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
The data is released once a year and made available to the college by the Jeanne Clery Act, the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 and the Violence against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA). The crimes reflected occurred on campus, on Knox property and on property either nearby or next to campus.
To Welker, one of the greatest problems on any campus is a culture of apathy.
“It’s when people either don’t know or don’t care and they become victims of crimes like thefts of opportunity. We try to talk about this at Orientation and throughout the year with individuals and organizations, and so many crimes like that can be prevented like locking your car door or locking the door in your room,” he said.
Welker also noted that alcohol use can also lead to more crime on campuses.
“If you can often decrease alcohol usage you often decrease criminal activity as a result of alcohol use,” he said.
His goal is to increase the presence of Campus Safety on campus and continue to foster an environment of safety, regardless of the data reflected in the report.
“Often the question is why did one category go up or down, and I can tell you that after years of experience, you can’t predict future activity and you can’t predict past activity,” Welker said.