BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) — As students begin the fall semester next week, Indiana University is receiving national attention for its campus figures.
But they might not be ones to brag about. It depends on how you interpret them, campus officials say.
Recent published reports in national media outlets like ProPublica and the Washington Post have pointed out that Indiana University ranks among the top ten college campuses nationwide with the most reports of alleged sexual assault incidents.
Those figures, printed in a Post article earlier this summer, relied heavily on information and statistics that universities are required to turn over to the U.S. Department of Education, IU officials confirm. Despite high numbers that might alarm parents of incoming students, university officials claim those high figures might actually be a good thing.
“The numbers reflect the fact that students are coming forward,” said Emily Springston, IU’s associate general counsel. “For such a big campus, our numbers make sense for this size of community.”
Those figures, according to the post, show that IU reported 54 alleged acts of forcible sexual assault between 2010 and 2012. Springston says the actual number of sexual assaults may be even higher because the statistics turned over to Washington don’t reflect the countless number of sexual assaults that go unreported.
“(The numbers) don’t tell the whole story,” Springston said. “People handle this trauma in very different ways. Some would rather not involve law enforcement.”
Springston said the university has stepped up its efforts to increase student education and outreach, playing host to resource fairs like the one near the center of campus on Friday.
Rachel Green, a senior who works with a campus organization Culture of Care, says the group’s goal is help find students the resources they need following sexual assaults. Green said the numbers don’t alarm her.
“I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing – it might mean more students are comfortable coming forward,” Green said. “I definitely think having any sexual assaults at all is a bad thing. But I don’t know if IU is doing better or worse than other universities.”
Even if the numbers are skewed by both unreported assaults or a higher number of reported incidents, IU sexual assault counselor Ann Skirvin says she’s seen an increased workload.
“In the last six years, my caseload has almost doubled,” Skirvin said.
However, she warns that those numbers too may be misconstrued. She says it’s not that more students are seeking counseling – simply in her experience – that more students are attending counseling for longer periods of time.
Many of the students are repeat clients, who seek assistance over weeks or even years.
“But I can understand why a parent would be concerned that other universities aren’t reporting it the same way we are,” she said. “My job is to believe (the victims). I’m not in a position like a person in law enforcement who has to investigate a case.”
Incoming freshman like Madison Stewart, who attended the resource fair near Showalter Fountain, said the numbers are concerning.
“I mean it (does concern me) a little bit. I think I have a good head on my shoulders,” Stewart said. “It’s sad that it happens here. IU is supposed to be a fun experience.”
When asked if she felt more comfortable after attending the resource fair, Stewart said: “I think it’s good to know that IU is taking steps by having events like this to make people aware.”
Among the changes include a new website that Springston claims “centralizes information” allowing would-be victims to report sexual assaults anonymously while at the same time compiling data that can be sent to both Title IX coordinators and campus police.