Underreported Sexual Assault Statistics A Problem, Students Say
The Times reported Monday that although the university was telling students and parents that counseling center cases involving sexual assault were being submitted according to federal policy, those cases actually weren’t included.
The law, known as the Clery Act, requires that universities submit crime data from on and around their campuses in an effort to give prospective students an accurate portrayal of campus safety.
Schools are required to submit all criminal allegations, regardless of whether they are being formally investigated by police or heard in court.
In order for counseling center cases to be included in the reports, victims must inform an officer from the school to do so, Laura LaCorte, a compliance official for USC, told the Times. Otherwise, such cases will not be included in the school’s data.
Based on what was said in the story, students opposed the idea that sexual assault victims would need to take extra steps to ensure their case gets included in crime statistics.
“[Sexual assault] is a hard topic to discuss, and to have to bring that out again after someone has developed skills to put it behind them, that’s really difficult,” said Monique Rodriguez, a masters student in social work.
"As long as confidentiality is upheld, then sexual assault cases dealt with in the counseling office should be included in the official reports" said Darlyne Cardenas, also a social work masters student. “I think it should still go into the statistics because it still happened.”
Mason Zheng, a junior accounting major saw the issue as a case of false advertising for potential students and their parents.
“People use those statistics to make a decision about which school to go to,” he said. “USC is doing something wrong, they’re not letting students do their due diligence by excluding potentially decision-changing data.”
LaCorte could not be reached for comment, and USC Department of Public Safety did not respond to inquiry.
Penalties for violating the Clery Act can accumulate into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the maximum fine for a single violation at $35,000 and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in 2012 that violent crimes that are misreported by an institution warrant maximum penalties.
Reach staff reporter Charlie Magovern here.