Report: Sexual assaults on the rise at UNH

By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org

DURHAM — The number of women victims of rape and sexual assault at the University of New Hampshire rose sharply by nearly 65 percent, according to the school’s annual safety report.

According to the 2022 Clery Act report, in 2021 UNH saw 36 women raped, either on campus, inside a campus resident, or off campus property. That’s more than the 23 women who said they were raped in 2020 and still more than the 25 women the report said were allegedly raped in 2019, although the actual number of UNH women raped may be higher could.

Named for Jeanne Clery, the Lehigh University student who was raped and murdered on campus, the Clery Act requires all colleges and universities that accept federal grants to collect data on crimes reported on campus and make that information publicly available close. The annual report for UNH was released in October with little fanfare.

Erika Mantz, the UNH communications director, said every report of rape is worrying, but she said women are safe at UNH despite the increase in reported sexual assaults.

“Durham was ranked as one of the safest college cities by Safewise, an organization that ranks the safest and most dangerous college cities based on crime rates calculated from FBI crime data,” Mantz said.

Rachel Stewart, director of UNH’s Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP), said most crimes of sexual violence are underreported. This means that the statistics compiled in the UNH Clery report are likely to show fewer attacks than reality.

“In interpreting the institution’s Clery reports, it is important to remember that it has been known and documented for years that sexual and domestic violence are extremely underreported crimes – so professionals in the field expect the numbers to increase as the public Awareness is also increasing and educating about resources helps remove barriers to reporting and encourages people of all genders, not just women, to report,” Stewart said.

Statistics from the 2020 school year don’t show the full picture, Stewart said, as COVID and the school closures have skewed the numbers. Stewart said statistics show that national levels of sexual assault have increased during the lockdown months of 2020. Assaults reported by UNH fell this year and increased in 2021 after students returned to campus full-time.

The current Clery report details all crimes on and off campus involving UNH students in 2021, 2020 and 2019. Rape aside, reports of stalking were also widespread in 2021, with 21 cases reported, up from nine in 2020. In 2019, 21 cases of reported speaking were reported.

In 2021 there were 10 reports of fondling, compared to six in 2020 and 14 in 2019. Reports of domestic violence fell to 11 reports in 2021. There were 15 reports of domestic violence in 2020 and 21 in 2019.

Stewart said the college must continue to focus on supporting victims who come forward after being attacked to experience violence. The school must also continue to work on prevention programs and strive to encourage students who see an instance of violence to come forward.

Mantz said the school has many resources for assault survivors and the school takes many steps to prevent violence against women.

“We use evidence-based practices and innovative technologies, including Bringing in the Bystander training and the uSafeUS app, to encourage students to look out for one another, report suspicious behavior, and take action to keep our community safe.” said Mantz.

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