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Published February 04 2013

NDSU officials: Stats don’t reflect extent of sex crimes

FARGO – Sexual assaults aren’t often reported to North Dakota State University Police, but campus officials say the statistics don’t reflect the extent of sexual violence toward college women.

The university sent out an email Saturday morning alerting students, faculty and staff about a sexual assault that reportedly happened sometime after 1:30 a.m. in a room at Stockbridge Hall. Police said the victim notified them of the incident around 6 a.m.

No arrests had been made as of Monday afternoon, NDSU Police Lt. Greg Stone said. He declined to comment on whether police had any suspects or whether the victim knew the assailant, citing the ongoing investigation.

Saturday’s campus-wide alert was a “timely warning” required by the Clery Act, the federal law that dictates safety and security requirements for colleges and universities. Under the law, the institution must issue a warning for any Clery Act crime – including a forcible sex offense – that represents an ongoing threat to the safety of students and employees.

Stone indicated that police don’t believe there’s an ongoing threat at NDSU.

“There’s no indicator that there’s a predator lurking around campus, waiting for victims or anything like that,” he said Monday.

Reports of sexual assault to NDSU Police are “somewhat rare,” Stone said, though he noted research suggests many sexual assaults go unreported.

According to NDSU’s annual security report, there was one forcible sexual offense reported to police in calendar year 2011 and two in 2010. All three were in on-campus student housing facilities.

Victims who don’t want to report sexual assaults to police may report them to NDSU’s helpline at (701) 730-6149, or in person to Sarah Dodd, assistant director of sexual assault prevention programs.

Dodd provides campus police with statistics on the number of reports, but whether any action is taken on an individual report is entirely up to the victim, she said.

In calendar year 2012, a total of nine forcible sex offenses were reported – three to NDSU Police and the rest to Dodd’s office, according to Bobbi Ruziska, police administrative coordinator. Eight of the nine incidents reportedly occurred in on-campus housing. The total doesn’t yet include Fargo Police Department statistics for the public streets and sidewalks bordering campus, but those would typically be sexual assaults that occur in public, which are uncommon, Ruziska said.

Sexual violence is more prevalent than the statistics suggest, Dodd said, citing a U.S. Department of Justice study in 2000 that found that about one in 36 college women, or 2.8 percent, experienced a rape or attempted rape in an academic year.

“I think there’s a lot of victim blame in the general culture, and it makes it really hard for the victim to come forward,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528