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Clery Act expansion to give more accurate picture of campus safety

BY ASMAA ELKEURTI | APRIL 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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A possible expansion of the Clery Act requiring higher-education institutions to file reports on domestic violence would allow students to get a better idea of the school's campus safety, University of Iowa officials said.

New legislation up for debate in Congress would require universities and colleges to record and report instances of dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking on or near campus.

While the University of Iowa police does not report statistics on domestic and dating-related incidences, UI officials said current student-behavior policies prohibit such behavior — and resources and accommodations for students dealing with these issues are available.

Chuck Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police, said he believes the proposed expansion of the Clery Act will be most beneficial to parents and students when deciding which university or college to attend.

"It gives people a picture of what the crime situation will look like with the University of Iowa and the Iowa City community," Green said. "And because every school has to do that, they can make those comparisons."

The Clery Act, a piece of national legislation that requires colleges and universities to record and report incidences of sexual misconduct and violence, was enacted after the sexual assault and murder of Jeanne Clery in 1987. The proposed amendment to the act — put forward by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., — would be a section of the broader Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization.

The UI's most recent reported case of sexual assault occurred in January, when a female student was assaulted near the Becker Communication Studies Building late one evening. The reported assault was the fifth to have occurred on campus since the fall of 2010.

In 2008, UI police recorded four incidences of forcible sex offenses; it jumped to nine in 2009, then dropped back to seven in 2010.

Currently under Clery Act guidelines, universities and colleges are required to record and report murder, manslaughter, forcible and non-forcible sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and arson on campus property, on a non-campus building or property, and public property.

Monique DiCarlo, UI sexual-misconduct-response coordinator, said any mandatory reporter that hears of any incidences of harassment must relay the information to her office.

"We reach out to the victim, particularly when it's a member of the campus community," DiCarlo said. "Our job would be to clarify what resources are available to the victim, and in the case where the person that hurt them was also a part of the campus community, we would also clarify what complaint options are available to that person that's separate from a law enforcement response."

Evaluating crime statistics helps each part of the university's response team better coordinate their efforts, DiCarlo said.

"Recording and tracking crime is one piece of the puzzle in preventing interpersonal violence. It's a helpful step and it's an important step, but it does not reduce crime," she said. "But it does help us learn what our community is experiencing to get the proper resources. It helps us know how to best educate our campus."

And Green said he feels lack of awareness of how often incidents occur and resources can hinder prevention and recuperation.

"I think that people probably aren't aware, especially young people, of how much dating and domestic type violence occurs. The thing I think often is missing is sometimes the University of Iowa population isn't aware that those services are available, or they may associate those services with a particular type of crime," Green said, referring to more aggressive forms of violence.

Karen Siler, Johnson County services coordinator, said she feels universities should continually make adjustments to their policies.

"Can every member of the system do better? We can all do better. It's when we say we're done and there's nothing else to change is when we get ourselves in trouble, so it's a constant assessment and a consistent reflection," Siler said.


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