The number of rapes reported at the University of Vermont nearly doubled from 2011 to 2012, a new report shows. UVM officials reported 12 "forcible rapes" in 2012 in an annual public safety report released this week. School officials reported seven in 2011.
Colleges and universities across the country were required to publish annual crime statistics for the three-year period ending in calendar year 2012 by this year's Oct. 1 deadline. The reporting is mandated by the Clery Act, a federal law enacted after the rape and murder of 19-year-old Jeanne Clery in her Lehigh University dorm room.
UVM officials say the key word here is "reported." LuAnn Rolley, the director of UVM's Womens' Center, said it's impossible to know if the increase was due to a higher occurrence of rape in the UVM community or a higher percentage of victims reporting the crime.
"I think overall what I would say is that it's a very underreported crime on college campuses across the country," Rolley said. "So it's often hard to know when you see an increase like we're seeing in the Clery reports if it is indeed an increase [in the prevalence of the crime]."
Rolley said increased training of campus staff and faculty may have been a factor in the increased reporting. "Campus security authorities" include athletic coaches, some faculty, Residence Life staff, and other school officials in contact with students. When they learn of a rape, these officials are required to report it to law enforcement, even if they do not include the victim's name.
An online reporting form allows these officials to "report the date - anything that you have - the location. Any information that the victim shares," Rolley said.
Rolley said that even after the increase, the numbers are low. With a student population of 12,773, the school had just .94 reported rapes per thousand students. This is in stark contrast to Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, which had a higher rate of reported "forcible sex offenses" than any major school in Vermont at 3.85 per thousand students. (Forcible sex offenses can include fondling and other offenses not typically classified as "rape." Dartmouth did not give specific numbers for reported rapes.)
While UVM and Dartmouth had the highest number of sex offenses, some Vermont schools are dealing with steep increases in drug and alcohol reports, according to this year's Clery Act reports.
Since 2010, Middlebury College's reported alcohol violations have gone up more than 500 percent, from 16 violations in 2010 to 90 in 2012. Over the same period, Middlebury saw a decline in drug violations from 64 in 2010 to 49 last year.
Champlain College's Clery Act Report showed a dramatic increase in drug violations since 2010, but much of that increase was due to a policy change. The college reported just 34 drug violations in 2010 and 173 in 2012, but spokesman Stephen Mease said the 2010 number is artificially low.
"The answer to the jump in numbers is there was one year when a change in policy kept campus security out of residence halls," Mease said in an email statement. "It was an experiment that was changed back the following year." Thus, Nease said, the numbers moved to more normal levels.
View 2013 Clery Act Reports: