By John Scott
While a report shows that the number of sex offenses on Western Michigan University’s main campus has drastically decreased over the last few years, that report may not entirely reflect the true number of crimes.
The number of forcible sex offenses on campus dropped from 14 reported cases to three during the 2010-2011 school year, according to the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report released by the Western Michigan University Department of Public Safety.
This sharp drop may look promising, but there are many who know the figure belies other factors.
“The decrease is definitely a result of a lack of reporting,” said Kristina Krozal, student assistant coordinator of the WMU peer education program, Fighting Ignorance and Rape through Education (FIRE).
“[Reporting] can be a tiresome process and turn into a messy ordeal,” Krozal said. “There is still a lot of stigma and victim-blaming.”
WMU public safety officers are aware of this problem as well.
“It is a severely underreported crime,” said Andrew Bachmann, a WMU public safety officer.
Bachmann also said that many reported sex offenses are committed by acquaintances of the victim, a factor that may influence whether she or he reports the crime.
Student Safety and Prevention
WMU sophomore Haley Hughes said that she feels safe on campus, even when walking from class to her car two nights a week.
“There are enough lights on campus to make me feel comfortable,” Hughes said, “but I do get nervous in the parking ramp. It’s too desolate.”
Campus lighting is just one of the numerous precautions implemented by WMU to inform and protect students. The FIRE Place program, located in room 3130 of the Sindecuse Health Center, always has its doors open and offers assistance in a safe atmosphere.
The WMU Department of Public Safety has officers on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, as well as an emergency phone line.
Educational programs are offered to first-year students during the Fall Welcome; links to these programs are listed on WMU’s website and available to all.
As April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, FIRE has a variety of events planned, including the annual “Take Back the Night” rally and march on April 11.