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Reports of assaults, sex crimes rise at some Oklahoma universities in 2011

The latest campus crime statistics show Langston University leads Oklahoma in aggravated assaults, while reports of forcible sex crimes increased last year at Oklahoma’s two largest universities.

BY ANDREW KNITTLE AND SILAS ALLEN Modified: December 8, 2012 at 7:31 pm •  Published: December 9, 2012
/articleid/3736008/1/pictures/1903057">Photo - Frank Atkinson, Langston University’s chief of police since August, says he is working to build a rapport with students.  Photo by Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman
Frank Atkinson, Langston University’s chief of police since August, says he is working to build a rapport with students. Photo by Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman

All of the reports at OSU list a dorm or apartment building as the location of the sexual assaults.

In the other four cases, which are either closed or inactive, the victim signed a waiver declining to prosecute their alleged attacker or refused to reveal the name to police.

Shearer said the “unfortunate” trend is ongoing in Stillwater.

“It’s typically a person the victim is associated with,” Shearer said. “It’s pretty common, unfortunately.”

At OU, the reports provided by police are more random in nature.

For instance, two of the reports provided by OU police are for alleged assaults that took place years before.

One incident, reported July 5, 2011, alleges a sexual assault on the third floor of the Walker Center back in “March of 1990.” The report does not say whether the reporting party is a man or woman and provides few other details.

Another sexual assault, reported in March 2011, allegedly was carried out Nov. 25, 2007, in the parking lot of the Traditions West apartment complex.

The report states that the victim was a woman and that drugs and alcohol were involved in the hourlong assault. No other details are provided in the report.

Lt. Bruce Chan, a spokesman for the OU Police Department, said some people find it therapeutic to report a sexual assault, even if the statute of limitations has long run out.

“It may be part of their healing process to make that report,” Chan said. “To get some kind of closure.”

Other reports from OU include one from a woman who claims she was groped at the university’s football stadium. The report indicates the assault took place on the same day OU played a home game against Tulsa University.

Another report reveals that a student anonymously reported an “alleged sexual assault” on a course evaluation form. The course was described as being a part of the “Precollegiate Programs.”

Two students reported being sexually assaulted at residential areas on campus, including an incident on the sixth floor of Couch Tower in November 2011.

No explanation for increase

As for what happened in 2011 to account for the spike in reported sex crimes at OU and OSU, there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer.

OSU’s Shearer said one possible explanation for the increase could have little to do with what’s going on inside dorm rooms and apartment buildings.

“The campus is growing, No. 1, and it’s taking in more area,” Shearer said. “If it occurs within the city of Stillwater jurisdiction … if it is within a certain distance of our university … we have to also show those.”

Indeed, an examination of OSU’s crime statistics, which are required under the federal Clery Act, shows that nine of the 14 reports of sex offense were reported to either university officials or other law enforcement agencies.

Shearer also said police are actively educating young people about reporting sexual assaults, if they do occur. He said the U.S. Department of Education is now requiring universities to do so.

“So, when you’re actually going into a classroom environment and talking about sexual assaults and stuff like that … it puts it in the forefront of everybody’s mind,” Shearer said. “Whenever you do that, you’re going to get an increased number of reports.”

Chan said the same thing about OU’s efforts to raise awareness about reporting sex crimes, saying years of work may be yielding higher numbers of reported sex crimes.

“We’re trying to educate our community to report when this sort of event happens,” he said. “That is probably taking effect now.”

And while Shearer said university officials are very careful when discussing reports of sexual assaults, he said it’s always better for people to let police know.

“OSU has never tried to hide their statistics … they are what they are,” he said.

“If they don’t report those incidents, that circle of violence is going to continue.

“If they make that report, we can possibly stop that from occurring to somebody else further down the road.”

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