DPS, Penn work to prevent sexual assault
November 17, 2011, 12:51 pm · Updated November 17, 2011, 2:05 pm·
Penn’s Division of Public Safety works to prevent sexual assault from falling through the cracks like it allegedly did at Pennsylvania State University.
At Penn State, a former football coach has been charged with several counts of sexual assault, and others are under investigation for allegedly covering up the abuse.
For many years, Penn Police’s Special Services has worked with many members of the Penn community, conducting special education seminars for different groups including coaches and others
involved in athletics to understand their legal responsibility to report crime, Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said.
Under the Jeanne Clery Act — named after a college student who was raped and murdered in her Lehigh University dormitory room in 1986 — anyone deemed a Campus Security Authority at Penn must report statistics on crime to Penn Police.
Coaches and athletic directors are considered CSAs according to the Clery Act, said Melissa Lucchesi, the outreach education coordinator for nonprofit safety watchdog Security on Campus.
Those exempt from reporting crimes involving victims over 18 at universities include clergy members, faculty members and counselors, among others, Lucchesi said.
The types of crimes CSAs must report include not only forcible and non-forcible sexual assault and harassment, but also criminal homicide, burglary, murder, arson, hate crimes, arrests and referrals for academic discipline, Rush said.
At Penn, CSAs are not only encouraged to report crime stats, but they are all required to complete a report even if they did not experience crime, Rush said.
These statistics are made public to the Penn community through a crime log which is located in Penn Police facilities and maintained on DPS’s website and the annual Clery Report assembled by DPS.
Of course, CSAs can only report those crimes if victims come forward to them, and sexual assault remains the “most underreported crime in the country, the nation and worldwide,” Director of Penn Police Special Services Patricia Brennan said.
And even in cases where a sexual assault is reported, it does not always lead to criminal action taken against the perpetrator.
Victims of sexual assault who come to Special Services are presented with multiple opt ions, includ ing takiing action through the Special Victims Unit, the student conduct code and the office of the Vice Provost for University Life — or, the victim may alternately choose to take no action, Brennan said.
If the perpetrator is a faculty member, there are internal mechanisms to handle that through the Provost’s office, Rush said. Staff may face sanctions through Human Resources.
In February 2008, former Perelman School of Medicine
professor Tracy McIntosh was sentenced to a three-and-a-half- to seven-year prison term for a 2002 sexual assault of a Penn Dental student. McIntosh was also sentenced to house arrest in 2004 for an unrelated sexual assault.
Penn made at least two internal investigations into allegations of sexual assault committed by the once-famous neurosurgery professor. Still, it was not until 2005 that McIntosh resigned after pleading no contest in court.
However, Penn has been recognized for its crime reporting, receiving the Jeanne Clery Campus Safety Award in 2003, which campuses receive for “showing they’re going above and beyond what
they need to do in terms of supporting survivors, doing their annual security report,” Lucchesi said.
The Clery Act holds “universities accountable to crimes” and protects students from a “culture of silence,” Lucchesi added.
In the case that there is reason to suspect a minor has faced abuse, according to Pennsylvania mandatory reporting laws, those who may work with children — including physicians, nurses, clergy members and teachers, among others — must report those cases to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.