University reports domestic violence, stalking for the first time

Natalie Sullivan

Updates to federal laws have prompted a more focused response to domestic violence, dating violence and stalking crimes on campus, according to a University official.

According to Jennifer Hammat, institutional Title IX coordinator and assistant vice president for student affairs, universities are now required to report these crimes because of changes made this year to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, a federal law that deals with crimes like sexual assault or other violent acts against women, and the Clery Act, which requires colleges to keep and disclose information about crime on and near
their campuses.

Under the updated laws, this year the University reported domestic violence, dating violence and stalking crimes for 2013 in its Annual Security Report for the first time.

In an email, Hammat said the statistics in this year’s report are a general attempt by the University to collect data, but, in the future, all U.S. colleges and universities will be required to report on these crimes.

“The recent updates … mandated that the University make a ‘good faith effort’ to report on domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking for the 2014 report,” Hammat said. “The Clery Act language has now been revised to reflect that all colleges and universities report on these crimes going forward.”

The report states that 15 counts of dating violence, 25 counts of domestic violence and 36 stalking incidents happened on or near campus last year.

Hammat said the University is also working to provide training for students and employees about issues of violence and has increased the number of mandated reporters, or people who are required to report a crime if it is told to them, on campus.

“We have increased the number of Campus Security Authorities on campus from around 250 people to just under 2,000 people,” Hammat said. “The hope is that if a student tells someone in authority (a supervisor, an academic advisor, the police, an administrator) the more likely the crime can be reported. Once it is reported, that provides us an opportunity to assist the employee or student with resources [and] support.”

Jane Bost, associate director of prevention and outreach services at UT Counseling and Mental Health Services, said she thinks updated laws, such as these, and an increased focus in the media have played a big role in raising awareness of domestic and dating violence.

“In the past 13 years, I have never seen a time where there has been this much focus on these issues, which is wonderful,” Bost said. “I think it really started with the White House task force report last year, and then there were these changes [that] are really getting people’s attention. Certainly, when you talk about opinion leaders, like sports figures and athletes … it brings more attention.”

Last summer, the CMHC worked with other campus organizations to get a definition of consent included in the sexual assault policy and created a Title IX resource guide for survivors that provides information and options about services the CMHC offers, Bost said. 

Erin Burrows, prevention and outreach specialist at Voices Against Violence, said events such as Relationship Violence Prevention Month in October and the Be An Anchor fundraiser event this month have also raised awareness of relationship violence.

“We work with student organizations to raise awareness and fund raise for the Emergency Survivors Fund,” Burrows said. “Last year, we had 25 student organizations that raised over $8,000 from October to April.”

Bost said the University will continue its efforts to provide resources on these crimes, but the new reporting guidelines are a step in the right direction.

“We can always improve, but I really think we’re meeting and exceeding in these efforts,” Bost said.