Reported sexual assaults up 40 percent

The Aurora Center reported the increase in comparision to last year’s statistics.

Reports of acquaintance sexual assault on campus have increased by approximately 40 percent in 2003 compared with the previous year, said the Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education.

The increase is largely because of a marketing campaign conducted by the center which encouraged victims to come forward.

The Aurora Center, an on-campus support center for sexual assault and domestic violence victims, reported that 64 victims of acquaintance sexual assault came forward in 2003, an increase from 46 victims the year before.

Although many victims were University students, some were members of the nearby community.

The Aurora Center received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice in 2001, and 25 percent to 30 percent of the grant went to educational and outreach efforts, said the center’s associate director, Roberta Gibbons.

These efforts include training for residence hall advisers, presentations to classes and student groups and distribution of informational handouts on sexual assault.

However, the biennial Student Health and Safety Survey, last conducted in 2003 by Boynton Health Service, found that the majority of sex crimes against students still go unreported, Gibbons said

The survey found that 611 females and 110 males at the Twin Cities campus had experienced actual or attempted rape in the last academic year. An additional 1,271 females and 483 males had experienced unwanted sexual touching.

In the Health and Safety Survey, assault ranked third in the list of things that “adversely affected academics,” behind mononucleosis and pregnancy, Gibbons said.

Jill Lipski, violence prevention education coordinator at the Aurora Center, said society needs to start addressing attitudes toward rape.

“The best way to prevent it is to educate people on the realities of (rape),” she said.

Raising awareness for victims

Lipski is in charge of several Aurora Center marketing operations, including a series of interactive educational presentations. The newest of these is the “Don’t Cancel That Class” campaign, which began in August.

Through the program, professors are encouraged to invite the Aurora Center to present for them on days they cannot make class. Topics include warning signs of an abusive relationship and how to be an ally for victims.

Although no one has yet participated in “Don’t Cancel That Class,” the Aurora Center has conducted 35 different presentations since last spring, reaching approximately 1,100 students, faculty and staff members. The number is an increase from fall 2003, when 377 people were contacted through 11 presentations.

“We’ll have reached more people Ö by the end of this month of October than we did all of fall last year,” said Lipski.

The Aurora Center also provides presentations at neighboring colleges that do not have sexual assault advocacy centers, and runs the Green M&M Project, a seminar that discusses the influence of media on sexuality.

Lipski knows her program is “definitely a success” because audience members occasionally communicate with her or other violence prevention educators after their presentations, she said.

“More people are aware of our services through the efforts of our outreach,” Gibbons said. “I think we do a good job, but I think there is still work to be done.”

Freelance editor Steven Snyder welcomes feedback at [email protected].