Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 21, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY


Editorial: Increase of reported rapes should be taken seriously

According to the 2016 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report from the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management, the number of rapes reported on campus has doubled from 2014 to 2015.

In commenting on this increase in rapes — all of which were reported to occur in on-campus housing — Ithaca College Title IX Coordinator Tiffani Ziemann and Thomas Dunn, a Public Safety lieutenant, believe this doubling can be attributed to an increased reporting of rape, and they have repeated this statement more than once.

According to a 2014 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, only 20 percent of rape and sexual assault cases were reported to the police for the time period 1995–2013. Given that a vast majority of women on college campuses do not report rapes, it must be taken into account that the number of reported rapes at Ithaca College are not an accurate representation of the frequency or severity of the crime, even if the number of reports has increased.

It is dangerous to place emphasis on the theory of increased reporting to explain the higher numbers of rape reports, because this could undermine taking a realistic approach to the possibility that there are actually more rapes occurring.

Without a concrete way of knowing whether the cause of the higher number is more reporting or more instances of rape, the college should err on the side of caution and take action as though it is the latter. This increase in rapes also brings into question how these rapes are being handled by the campus judicial process and Public Safety. When rapes occur on campus and a Public Safety alert is sent to the community, there are no public follow-ups informing students how the rapist, if caught, was punished, nor is there available data showing how many reported rapes are solved. There is no clear way of knowing if justice was served.

And because there are no public updates on these reported rape cases, it becomes unnerving to think that there are possible rapists on campus, in classrooms, in dining halls, in residence halls. Keeping the statuses of these rape cases ambiguous and out of the public eye does not benefit the campus in any way — it only keeps students uninformed about what is going on around them.

Students have a right to know if alleged rapists are apprehended and the subsequent punishment they received. It is not conducive to cultivating a safe campus environment if cases of rape and sexual assault are swept underneath the rug of praise for a possible increase in reporting.