BOSTON ― New England’s largest colleges reported about 40 percent more sexual assaults last year compared with 2012, an increase experts attribute to heightened awareness of the problem and more victims coming forward.
Reports of “forcible sex offenses” climbed to 289 last year, up from 206 in 2012, according to a Boston Globe review of data that 29 colleges provided in annual federally mandated reports released last week. While complete data will not be available from the U.S. Department of Education until at least December, the Globe reached out to a select number of schools for updated numbers.
The issue has received increased attention from the Obama administration.
At all but four of the campuses in the review, the number of sexual assault reports rose or held steady last year.
“It means that students are coming forward and reporting crimes that are happening and ending that culture of silence,” said Alison Kiss, director of the Clery Center for Security On Campus, a nonprofit that trains colleges to comply with the federal Clery Act.
Under the Clery Act, colleges are required by Oct. 1 each year to issue a report that includes statistics of allegations of crimes that occurred on campus, including dorms and other public property; at property owned by, but separated from, the main campus; and at fraternities and sororities. Off-campus housing is excluded.
Specialists also believe the spike in reporting may be because colleges are becoming more thorough and transparent in collecting and disclosing sexual assault data.
Hampshire College in Amherst said its reports of assaults increased from 13 to 20.
Diana Fernandez, Hampshire’s coordinator for Title IX, the federal law that mandates gender equality in campus life, attributed the increase the college’s new efforts to inform students about how to report the crime and about the increased resources available for victims.
At the University of Connecticut, sexual assault reports nearly doubled from 13 in 2012 to 25 last year.
“I think the numbers will continue to rise here and at other campuses for years to come, and that’s really important because it gives us a better picture of what’s happening,” said UConn’s Title IX coordinator, Elizabeth Conklin.