As seen among universities across the country, campus sexual assaults aren’t isolated incidents — 11.2 percent of all students experience rape or sexual assault. Western’s campus is no exception.
Of these incidents, underreporting is a continuing problem.
Western’s annual Security and Fire Safety Report shows 19 cases of reported sexual assault between 2013 and 2015. These results don’t align with the results of a Western Campus Climate survey, which found nine out of 10 sexual assault cases go unreported.
In 2015, 142 students sought CASAS resources, yet only 11 incidents of sexual assault were reported — 92 percent of students aren’t reporting.
There are many reasons sexual assault survivors decide not to report incidents. Karen Burke, executive director of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services, cites victims knowing their assailant as a reason cases go unreported.
“It’s very frequently within a friend group, or someone in a community that they know casually, and there’s the possibility that they might run into them again,” Burke said. “And certainly on a campus, more so.”
Student victims already have the burden of recovery. Western shouldn’t be a roadblock in this process.
Connor Patrick Griesemer, who was charged with a felony count of raping another student in 2015, has been readmitted to the university. Ultimately, Griesemer plead down to a lesser charge of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation.The victim graduated spring 2016, but she isn’t the only sexual assault survivor on campus.
Paul Cocke, university director of communications and marketing, said community safety is the top priority during the readmittance decision process.
But how can Western assure the safety of students? Their physical and mental well-being is jeopardized.
The victim of Griesemer’s sexual assault received counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder and dealt with flashbacks and nightmares, according to court records. These are valid and very real feelings survivors have. Students shouldn’t have to walk around feeling threatened and unsafe — on or off campus.
According to Whatcom County Superior Court records, prosecutors said Griesemer raped a female student after an off-campus party. CASAS records show 73 percent of sexual assaults occur off campus. These incidents reiterate the prevalent rape culture in the United States.
The Campus Climate Report shows only 8 percent of students who experienced assaults went on to report these incidents to Western. There isn’t one universal reason as to why sexual assault victims don’t report, but Western shouldn’t give them that reason.
Western shouldn’t perpetuate a climate that makes victims feel as if they can’t come forward and report their assaults. Readmitting Griesemer sends the message that rape and sexual assault is excusable.