UT Security and Fire Safety reports may indicate greater willingness to report sexual offenses

Nick Hadjigeorge and Liz Farmer

The number of reported sex offense crimes increased between the years 2008 and 2010, according to the annual UT security and fire safety reports. The report also said 35 fire alarms were activated in 2010, but no actual fires took place in the campus dorms.

The security report is a collection of crime statistics and information about the methods UT uses to report crimes and the resources available to students. The reports are published as mandated by federal law and require the University to “make policy and programmatic information available to the campus community as well as to prospective students and employees.”

According to the security report, 11 forcible sex offenses were reported in 2008, 20 forcible sex offenses were reported in 2009 and 40 forcible sex offenses were reported in 2010.

Michael Crumrine, Austin Police Department sex crimes detective, said that for various reasons, it takes courage for a victim to report a sexual assault crime.

“It’s one thing to put more locks on your door,” Crumrine said. “But how do you protect against the person you went out on a date with?”

He said the harsh way society treats victims interferes with the victims’ comfort when reporting the crime.

According to a 2003 study by associate social work professor Noel Busch-Armendariz, only 18 percent of sexual assault cases are reported.

Torie Camp, deputy director of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, said these assaults go unreported because the victim often feels societal pressure to hide the occurrence of their assault.

“There’s a lot of guilt that goes along with sexual assault,” Camp said. “But those things don’t change the fact that they were sexually assaulted.”

Camp said the increase in sexual assault cases documented in this year’s security report may indicate that a greater number of these cases are being reported and not necessarily that the number of assaults has increased.

“The numbers of reported forcible sexual offenses are a very small percentage of the total UT population,” Camp said. “An increase in that number is a good thing. It means that victims are willing and able to face the challenges of reporting.”

According to the fire safety report, despite no actual fires occurring in 2010, Jester Residence Hall reported 16 calls about fire alarms, the highest number among the campus dorms. Each semester the dorms are required to have an unannounced fire drill, according to the report. Chemistry junior Justin Gabuten lived in the dorm from fall 2009 to spring 2010 and said resident assistant need to check the rooms for residents.

“I though it was good they were doing it, but a lot of my friends said that they slept through the alarm,” Gabuten said. “I was surprised that they didn’t do a thorough job when it was evacuated.”

However, he said the RAs responded well in terms of rehearsing proper safety protocol as if there was a fire.

“For the most part, they were pretty organized,” Gabuten said. “The RAs made sure to close the doors so that the fire wouldn’t be spread.” 

Printed on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 as: Crime reports indicate rise in sex offenses, most go unreported