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Data: Sex offenses up at some Iowa universities

Published: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 11:18 a.m. CDT

DES MOINES (AP) — The Iowa Board of Regents released crime data Tuesday that show an increase in reported sex offenses at two of the state’s three public universities, with a recent spike in complaints and controversy at the University of Iowa adding to the information’s impact.

The data were released as part of a yearly report on campus safety and security at Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Iowa. The information covers 2012 and 2013.

The data on sex offenses cover several categories, including reports of rape and sexual assault. At Iowa State University in Ames, there were 13 reported sex offenses in 2013, an increase from nine in 2012. Eleven of those sex offenses in 2013 were cases of rape, according to the data.

At the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, there were two reported sex offenses in 2013, an increase from 1 in 2012. The data show both of those sex offenses in 2013 were cases of rape.

The University of Iowa, which has received recent media attention for a jump in the number of complaints about incidents of sexual assault, had four reported sex offenses in 2013, a decrease from eight in 2012. None of the sex offenses in 2013 involved rape, according to the data.

The crime data do not reflect incidents where victims choose not to formally file a report to police. The distinction means some of those highly publicized reports of sexual assault at UI are not included.

Joe Brennan, spokesman for the University of Iowa, acknowledged the technicality of how the data were collected. Since last August, the school has issued eight “timely warning” notifications involving incidents of sexual assault. Timely warning notifications involve officials telling students, faculty and staff about sexual misconduct on campus.

Recently, the university’s president, Sally Mason, received criticism over a comment she made about the “human nature” of sexual assault. She has since apologized.

The school has said the volume of notifications this academic year doesn’t mean there’s an increase in sexual assault, but that more students are stepping forward to report incidents.

“We take it seriously,” Brennan said of the school’s continuing efforts to handle cases sexual assault. “We want to encourage more reporting.”

John McCarroll, spokesman for Iowa State University, said during a conference call with reporters that he did not have an immediate comment about the statistics because he had just seen the report. Scott Ketelsen, spokesman for the University of Northern Iowa, also said he wasn’t commenting yet because he needed time to review the report.

The Rape Victim Advocacy Program in Iowa City is a hybrid organization that works out of the University of Iowa but also serves surrounding communities. Its executive director, Karla Miller, said it’s important that universities offer the most complete information about reported sexual assaults.

“It is really important to understand that those are only cases that are reported to the police,” she said of the latest data. “And it’s just critical in understanding the problem.”

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