Reports of rape, some other crimes up slightly at UMW

Reports of forcible rape, stalking, domestic violence and dating violence were up slightly at the University of Mary Washington last year, according to the annual security report published this week.

The university, where approximately 4,000 undergraduates are enrolled, reported 11 forcible rapes on campus in 2016, up from eight the previous year. Virginia Tech, which has a student body of just over 33,000, also reported 11 rapes last year.

Virginia Commonwealth University reported 15, Longwood reported six and George Mason University reported 20.

UMW reported five occurrences of stalking last year, up from two the year before. There were three reported cases of domestic violence and eight of dating violence, both up from zero in 2015.

Reports of forcible fondling at UMW were down to two last year from six the year before.

Michael Hall, UMW’s chief of police and associate vice president for safety, attributed UMW having the same number of reported rapes as a much larger school to the fact that UMW’s report might be more inclusive.

“We feel that we capture everything,” he said. “I’m not saying that other institutions don’t, but anything that is brought forward and followed gets reported.

“Some of the cases that come to us don’t end up meeting the necessary elements for a criminal prosecution, or the victim chooses not to move forward, but we still report all those so that we capture everything.”

Hall said that occurrences of sexual assault on campuses nationwide sometimes go unreported because victims don’t feel comfortable coming forward. But he said the collaborative effort between UMW entities such as the counseling center, Title IX office, residence life, dean’s office, Board of Visitors and awareness programs and Fredericksburg-area resources such as the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and Rappahannock Area Community Services Board create a supportive environment where students are empowered.

“I think the close-knit community that we have contributes to them feeling comfortable and empowered to come forward,” Hall said.

On Sept. 28, UMW’s Title IX office issued a campus-wide email response to the Department of Education’s withdrawal that week of mandates requiring schools to adopt a minimal standard of proof when investigating allegations of sexual misconduct.

“[The Office for Civil Rights] has indicated an intention to engage in further rulemaking on this topic, so it is uncertain how this interim guidance will change in the future,” the email read. “What is certain is the University’s and the Office of Title IX’s commitment to creating and fostering a community free from sex or gender discrimination.”

The email stated that UMW would continue to operate under its existing “Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence,” which does apply the preponderance of evidence standard, meaning that “it is more likely than not that a Policy violation has occurred.”

The Board of Visitors reapproved the policy on Sept. 15 and it is not scheduled for review again until next September.

Also in the security report, UMW noted one instance of burglary and no robberies, motor vehicle theft, arson or aggravated assaults.

Liquor law violations were also up in 2016. UMW reported 177 liquor law violations, up from 119 the previous year—but it reported fewer of those violations than Virginia Tech, VCU, Longwood and George Mason.

There were 45 reported drug law violations at UMW, down from 56 the previous year.

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