On high alert: sexual assault and battery reports on both VCU campuses spiked this September

Photo by Julie Tripp
Photo by Julie Tripp

Members of the community reported a record number of sexual assault and battery cases on the Monroe Park and Medical campuses in September.

Five sexual assaults and three sexual batteries occurred on the Monroe Park campus, in addition to another sexual assault and two batteries on the Medical campus, as of Sept. 27, according to VCU Police Department data. This is a rise in reports compared to the summer, when five sexual assaults were reported in August, and one in July.

“If you’re seeing increases in reports, I don’t know if it necessarily means that a schools is having more sexual assaults than they’ve had in the past, because there is no way to judge or measure that,” said VCU Police Chief John Venuti. “But what we do know is that more people are coming forward and reporting.”

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Twice in September police were notified of a suspect groping a stranger. Two other September incidents’ involved sexual assaults in on-campus residential housing facilities where the suspect was known to the survivor.

“That kind of conduct and activity, here at VCU, we take it very seriously,” Venuti said.

Tammi Slovinsky, VCU deputy Title IX coordinator, said even though reports show one in six women are victimized by sexual assault while in college, the university does not see nearly that many cases.

Title IX is a federal law prohibiting any form of sex or gender discrimination at an educational institution receiving federal funding. Sexual assault or exploitation, partner or relationship violence, stalking, harassment, retaliation and complicity are all prohibited under Title IX.

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More that 90 percent of sexual assault cases on college campuses are not reported, according to a 2015 study by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

“Even with the reports we are seeing now, we’re probably still not receiving a lot of reports from students,” Slovinsky said. “Because they’re turning to friends. They might feel guilt, shame, embarrassment or fear.”

VCU introduced Title IX training courses to students, faculty and staff two years ago, but the initiative was not mandated until this year.

Slovinsky said students who know what qualifies as sexual assault and are aware of what resources are available to them are more likely to come forward and report.

“I’m hoping if we keep encouraging reporting and we’ll keep having students come forward,” Slovinsky said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to hold some of the people responsible that are violating our policy.”

Students and staff can access the required Title IX training “Not Anymore” online. According to the Title IX office, the module takes about 45 minutes to complete. The deadline for completion is Sept. 30, 2016.


STAFF WRITER

marylee clark. photo by sarah kingMary Lee Clark
Mary Lee is a senior studying journalism. She currently interns for RVAmag and GayRVA.com, in addition to writing for the CT. She previously worked as a makeup artist at Darkwood Manor, did lighting design at Trackside Theater (where she is now on the Board of Directors) and photographed for the Page News and Courier.
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