On a hazy morning like today's, you could easily have let Associate Vice President and Chief of Police Bruce Lewis's email releasing the 2015 Northwestern Annual Security Report slip by unnoticed. And even if you did click on the link, there's a good chance you still missed information on page 111 of 117 regarding sexual assault on Northwestern's Evanston campus.
In the email, Lewis said the report "features statistics for the previous three years (2013, 2014 and 2015) concerning reported crimes, and also includes information on institutional policies, a fire safety report, and general information on the University’s safety and security efforts."
Far from the top of the tome of a document (p. 111) is a page regarding all offenses ranked, according to the report, "by hierarchy." This page shows that in 2015, eight on-campus rapes were reported to University, a significant rise from 2014's three reports.
While the report likely cannot give an accurate read on how many acts of sexual misconduct occurred on campus, the increase in number of reports marks a shift. In an interview with NBN following a nine day span in April in which there were four reports of sexual assault, Carrie Wachter, the Coordinator of Sexual Violence Response Services and Advocacy at the Center for Awareness, Response, and Education (CARE) at Northwestern, said that more reports is not always a negative.
"It doesn’t necessarily mean that more assaults are happening because we see them happen all the time unfortunately," said Wachter. "And they’re not being reported or talked about. When you see reports start coming through, I think that marks a culture shift.”
Erin Clark, the Assistant Director of CARE, said that while she wouldn't consider more reports an inherently good thing, it's important to look at why the numbers are higher.
"It is always interesting to think about how the process of reporting looks and why someone might report," said Clark. "And when we remove barriers that does increase numbers."
Clark also said comparing reports across years makes sense, but one also has to look at the different contexts of new years, and how these contexts change.
"There are definitely some changes on a federal level about really enforcing requirements more clearly," said Clark. "So schools are getting a lot more guidance about what to report."
With regards to the Evanston campus, the report also reveals marked increases in burglaries in on-campus residential facilities (six to 12) from 2014 to 2015, and in liquor and drug law violations referred for disciplinary action on campus from 2013 to 2015. It can be viewed in full here.