On-campus reports of burglary, motor theft, domestic violence increase, crime reporting may have also risen

Tori Duff

Reported incidents of domestic violence have doubled in 2020, according to the 2021 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report released last week.

On-campus reports of domestic violence increased from four to eight from 2019 to 2020 despite the pandemic reducing the student population at UT. The average number of reported domestic violence incidents for the last six years is about five. However, Melanie Susswein, director of communications at the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said these numbers are most likely underreported. 

“For a community of 50,000 students to have eight reports, (it) is most likely underreporting,” Susswein said. “We know at large that there’s underreporting of these crimes, so it would make sense that there is underreporting, as well, at UT. It is hard (on survivors) to report these crimes.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas and cities nationally have seen a general rise in reports of domestic violence. Experts say this may be due to economic and societal distress, as well as more time spent at home, according to the report by Time.

“What we see in larger societies, we see on campus,” Susswein said. “The way to strengthen the issue (of domestic violence) is to talk about it, to break down stigma and to see the things that are available on our campus for people.”

Susswein said people have been reporting domestic violence cases more in recent years due to new Texas legislation that requires educators at public universities to report knowledge of abuse and greater utilization of UT resources.

“(The increase) could mean that there is more utilization of the programs that UT has … more awareness,” Susswein said. “It does not necessarily mean that there is more violence.”

University spokesperson Eliska Padilla said the increase in domestic violence cases in the report could be due to incidents being counted twice. Multiple entities submit data to the annual report and often the office compiling the report cannot tell it is the same case due to privacy laws, Padilla said. 

“As well, Senate Bill 212 went into effect on January 1, 2020, and (University Compliance Services) noticed as the bill went into effect that there has been an increase in reporting,” Padilla said. 

Senate Bill 212 is a law that requires educators to report any incidents of sexual assault, violence or harassment that they hear of to Title IX.