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UPD says reported on-campus rape cases in 2018 will be lower than 2017

Nathan Dean, Broadcast Reporter

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After high school graduation, students take their first steps in discovering their life purpose. The first stage of their adult life begins. Although students leave college well-prepared for many scenarios, they usually aren’t prepared for the possibility of being sexually assaulted, sexually harassed or raped.

From 2015 to 2017, the number of reported rape cases has increased every year. According to the 2017 University of North Florida Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, there were two reported rape cases in 2015, five in 2016 and nine in 2017.

Cheryl Gonzalez, former director of Equal Opportunity and Diversity at the University of North Florida, refers to the Campus Clarity Title IX Training session that UNF purchased four years ago as a potential cause for the increase of reported rape cases.

The Campus Clarity Title IX Training course is an online session that educates students on Title IX regulations and reminds students of the dangers that can come from drugs and alcohol. Although UNF purchased the Campus Clarity Title IX Training four years ago, it did not become mandated for all students to complete the course until Spring 2018.

Gonzalez believes that the numbers shown on the previous Annual Security and Fire Report for UNF could potentially represent an increase of students obtaining a “heightened awareness” towards issues involving Title IX compliance. Gonzalez believes that this issue is reported more now than in previous generations, rather than an increase in the actual crime.

Gonzalez also said that when the Campus Clarity Title IX Training course became a requirement for students to complete before registering for classes, it allowed students to see that the university cares. She also refers to the course as a necessity that assists in keeping all students aware of the resources on-campus for their safety and protection.

Records of on-campus crime at UNF in 2018 are unavailable to the public due to the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, also known as the Clery Act. According to the federal Clery Act listed on CleryCenter.org, “The Clery Act requires colleges and universities that receive federal funding to disseminate a public annual security report (ASR) to employees and students every October 1st.”

Chief Frank Mackesy, director of UNF Police and Public Safety, said that the data in relation to on-campus crimes in 2018 will not be released to the public until October 1, 2019. Mackesy said he is confident that the number of reported rape cases in 2018 will be lower than 2017.

Mackesy, like Gonzalez, believes students are becoming more aware of what can happen while on-campus.

“In 95 percent of rape cases reported to the UNFPD, we know who the suspects are,” Mackesy said. “I believe students feel more comfortable on-campus and reporting these instances now than in previous years.”

Maria Bermudez, Student Body Vice President and Vice President for the UNF Feminist Club, also agrees that UNF is heading in the right direction when discussing these issues.

“I do agree that students feel more comfortable reporting sexual assault and rape crimes on-campus,” Bermudez said. “Student Government is trying to increase reporting and I have seen an urgency in doing so.”

Bermudez does question the accuracy of the Campus Clarity course, but still supports the student requirement before registering for classes at the university.

“I don’t think students will answer the drug questions honestly,” Bermudez said. “I think a lot can be improved on Campus Clarity, but I’m all in support for increasing the awareness of Title IX regulations and making the Campus Clarity mandatory for all students at UNF.”

The perspectives appear to be similar regarding the increase of awareness. The 2018 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report could possibly answer this question or lead to even more.

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UPD says reported on-campus rape cases in 2018 will be lower than 2017