New IU procedure conceals locations of sexual assault reports

Students across campus read the email subject line: CRIME ALERT — REPORTED RAPE.

Students learned the victim had been drinking at a party on the afternoon of April 11 and had experienced a loss of memory. The suspect was 5-foot-9 to 6 feet tall and had brown hair.

But one question went unanswered: Where?

The IU Police Department refused requests by the Indiana Daily Student to release the location ?of the assault.

A new University procedure conceals the locations of sexual assaults reported to IUPD in an effort to protect the confidentiality of the victim, a University lawyer said.

The lack of information leaves students wondering whether their dorms and neighborhoods are safe.

The change is based on “federal guidance and feedback from our community,” Assistant General Counsel Aimee Burkert Oestreich said in an email.

The federal Jeanne Clery Act ?requires universities to notify students when a crime occurs and provide a general location. Burkert Oesterich said the change meets the requirements of the act, which allows enough vagueness to protect victim ?confidentiality.

In the past, the University has specified locations of IUPD sexual assault reports with names of specific campus buildings, student dormitories, fraternity houses and other University-affiliated locations. Unless the location was unknown or releasing it would directly identify a victim, the University would generally release the address of a reported sexual assault.

As of this year, the locations will only include general descriptors such as whether the incident occurred in on-campus housing or in on-campus student organization housing.

This change was spurred by feedback from students who have experienced sexual assault, said Emily Springston, chief student welfare and Title IX officer.

“One of the reasons people do not want to come forward is their feeling of everyone knowing,” ?Springston said.

Attorney Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said in an email the changes are inconsistent with IU’s Clery obligations. The Clery Act requires giving people enough information about a crime to be able to take precautions to protect themselves, including a description of the location, LoMonte said.

“The whole point of giving the alert is, first, to allow people to avoid areas that are known to be dangerous and, second, to encourage people to come forward if they’ve witnessed a crime,” LoMonte said. “If you don’t describe the location, you defeat both purposes.”

LoMonte also said omitting the location suggests the University believes every place on campus is equally dangerous.

“It’s incredibly strange in this climate of heightened consciousness about campus crime that a university’s response would be to err on the side of less information instead of more,” ?LoMonte said.

Opinions about this new procedure are mixed among students. Some think it will obstruct transparency within the greek system specifically because fraternity houses will not be named in connection to reported sexual assaults. Some in the greek community think the changes may encourage more victims to report sexual assaults.

Panhellenic Association President Margaret Hensley said in an email she hopes by knowing the location of the assault will be kept private, women will be more likely to seek the help they need.

Although underreporting is an issue for all students across campus, Springston said she worries about the pressures within the greek system.

Students and survivors of sexual assault say women who are raped in fraternities sometimes choose not to report out of fear of getting the fraternity in trouble or hurting the status of their ?sorority.

At an event organized by Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault and Safe Sisters in March, students sat in groups to discuss solutions for preventing sexual assault and its stigma within the greek ?system.

They talked about the growing number of resources that encourage members of chapters to report. Amy Blake, a sophomore in Phi Mu who is a member of Safe Sisters, talked about how ?social status and relationships between chapters sometimes hinder a victim’s decision to report a sexual ?assault.

“It’s frustrating that social status gets in the way of morality,” Blake said.

Many students reiterated that a fraternity as a whole should not be judged or stereotyped by the actions of one person.

Blake said she agrees, but transparency is more ?important.

“You should know where you’re going and what’s happened there,” Blake said. “You trust these guys.”

Blake later said the level of transparency in sexual assault cases should be up to the victim.

“If a victim wants it to not be announced, it should be respected,” Blake said. “But other than that, how could it hurt to announce ?the location?”

Lauren Devereux, a junior in Theta Phi Alpha and a member of Safe Sisters, was sexually assaulted last summer at an off-campus party at her friend’s place attended by several members of one fraternity. Devereux requested the fraternity’s name be ?withheld.

The hookup was consensual at first, but Devereux said things started to get uncomfortable and painful. She repeatedly asked him to stop, but he didn’t.

She told her close friends about the night, but she didn’t initially report it to the University or to the police. She did not want her sorority to have to stop pairing with the fraternity, so she occasionally saw him at parties. One time, he had planned on attending a date party with her sorority, but her sorority’s president prohibited him from coming.

“I shouldn’t have to go to my events with the fear that I’m going to be running into my rapist,” Devereux said.

In October, Devereux emailed the fraternity’s president. She told him what happened, and he immediately turned the man in to the Office of Student Ethics, Devereux said. When the office reached out to Devereux, she was unsure if she wanted to pursue an investigation.

“They were a fraternity that we pair with all the time,” Devereux said. “I didn’t want to ruin that relationship.”

She was reluctant, but eventually cooperated with an investigation by the Office of Student Ethics. On the Friday of Little 500 weekend, she learned the man was held responsible and suspended from school for more than ?a year.

“I cried,” Devereux said. “I finally felt like someone ?believed me.”

Devereux has never gone back to a pair with the man’s fraternity, but she also does not think his fraternity should be held responsible for his poor judgment. Her rape did not occur at one of the fraternity’s organized parties and had nothing to do with an unsafe environment they ?created.

Regarding the University’s refusal to release the locations of sexual assault, ?Devereux was torn.

She said she thinks it is important for the public to have access to those records. By looking at areas where sexual assaults are concentrated, maybe the public can study trends of outside factors influencing sexual assaults. Are there more parties in certain areas? Fewer emergency resources available in certain parts of campus? Less IUPD coverage?

“But it’s not fair to have that all on a fraternity,” ?she said.

She said she thinks an isolated incident should not indicate students are in danger at a specific chapter.

“Fraternities don’t rape people,” Devereux said. ?“People rape people.”

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