Some sex crimes up, others down

by Kevin Behr

Incidents of reported criminal sexual conduct in the University area have increased this year while those on campus have dropped.

Compared with the same month last year, rape cases in August increased from six to 11, or 83 percent, according to Minneapolis police statistics.

From January through August 2005, there were 33 reported cases of rape in the 2nd Precinct, which includes the University, while 51 cases – a 55 percent increase ñ- were reported for that same period this year, according to the statistics.

In the first eight months of 2005, there were four cases of criminal sexual conduct on campus, compared with two during the same span this year.

“Those are pretty good numbers for a campus of this size,” said University Deputy Police Chief Steve Johnson. “But those statistics only show those cases that were reported.”

Jessica Bills, legal advocacy and direct services coordinator at the Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education, said the incidence of rape is not necessarily increasing, but reporting the crime is.

“A lot more sexual assaults happen than are reported,” she said. “I think it’s a positive thing that (victims) are finding someone in a helping profession to talk to.”

Rape more prevalent than reported
The number of people who visit the Aurora Center is higher than the number of sexual assault cases reported to police, said Roberta Gibbons, the Aurora Center’s executive director.

From January to August 2005, 63 people sought help at the Aurora Center while 53 visited during those months this year, Gibbons said.

Megan Alama, a sociology and English senior, said rape is underreported because of the stigma attached to victims.

“Violence like this can really affect you for years,” said Alama, a member of the Aurora Center Student Group.

Aurora Center services
The Aurora Center provides advocacy services such as crisis intervention and also offers legal assistance in obtaining restraining orders.

Alama said there’s no way to prevent rape, but there are things people can do to show it is unacceptable, such as speaking out against these crimes.

When it comes to sexual encounters, Gibbons said, it’s important for people to have strong, assertive communication skills.

The Aurora Center does not tell victims what they should do regarding their individual cases, Bills said.

“We provide options,” she said. “We empower the victim to make their own choices, not make the choice for them.”

Aurora Center advocates do not pressure victims to make a police report but explain the process to them, she said.

Johnson said University police are trained to be sensitive when dealing with sexual assault cases and emphasized the importance of reporting incidents to police.

“Once a police report is filed, we’re obligated to investigate crimes and prevent them in the future,” he said.