Originally passed in 1990, the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act sets the crime-reporting requirements for colleges and universities nationwide.
The Clery Act requires that the Division of Public Safety disclose basic information about sexual assaults that occur on campus — a stipulation that has been of interest in light of the four sexual assaults reported on campus this semester. However, according to University administrators and college safety experts, the requirement must be balanced with privacy concerns for sexual assault survivors.
DPS reports any crime that occurs within the Penn Patrol Zone, which spans from 30th Street to 43rd Street and from Baltimore Avenue to Market Street.
In Oct. 2008, DPS began releasing the block on which a sexual assault occurred in its publicly available crime log. The log does not include a specific location on the block.
Prior to Oct. 2008, however, sexual assaults were listed as “confidential” in the crime log, and only the date and time of the incident were reported, Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said.
The policy was “a conscious decision” that DPS made in order to “protect the identity of the victim,” said PennComm Director Mitch Yanak, whose office is involved in compiling the crime log.
The changes were made after The Daily Pennsylvanian raised concerns that under such a practice, the University was withholding information it was legally required to disclose, according to DP archives.
DPS officials said in a November 2008 DP article that they believed the Clery Act protected reporting sexual assaults as confidential.
Jonathan Kassa, executive director of Security on Campus, a nonprofit organization that aims to prevent crime on college campuses nationwide, said DPS’s newer approach represented “a better balance” between victims’ privacy and disclosure requirements.
In Penn’s case, he said, “it doesn’t mean that there [was] automatically a conspiracy.”
But Kassa said in the overall college security landscape, schools do use privacy concerns to cover up sex crimes.
At Penn, Kassa said, the refinement of the disclosure policy represents a more “thorough understanding of what victims’ rights are.”
University spokeswoman Lori Doyle said the current policy’s foremost goal is to protect survivors’ privacy.
“That trumps everything else,” she said.
Doyle explained that further specification — for instance, noting an address at which a rape occurred — would allow the public to speculate as to the identities of people involved in the incident.
“It’s just a slippery slope,” she added.
Although two rapes allegedly occurred this semester at fraternity parties, instances of sexual assault at fraternity parties are “unusual” and can occur anywhere, according to Rush.
“Where things happen, they happen,” she added.
Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs Director Scott Reikofski did not return multiple calls and e-mails requesting comment.
Yanak said that if sexual assault survivors were easily identified, then fewer would come forth and report the crimes in the first place.
Kassa agreed. “The culture of silence still exists,” he said.Comments powered by Disqus
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