Aerial view of Wittenberg University looking northwest on April 24, 2017. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Wittenberg reports uptick in rapes, zero drug arrests

The number of rapes reported on Wittenberg University’s campus increased in 2016 while the number of drug and alcohol violations and arrests declined, according to the school’s annual crime and safety report.

There were four rapes reported on campus in 2016, up from just one in 2015 and even with four reported in 2014, according to the federally mandated campus security and fire safety report.

“Over the past few years, Wittenberg has made a concerted, campus-wide effort to encourage survivors of sexual assault to report the assault to authorities, which we believe has resulted in more reports overall,” said Wittenberg police chief James Hutchins via email.

In March, Wittenberg reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education after it was found that the university’s handling of complaints arising from reports of sexual assault violated federal law.

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The probe, under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, was based on complaints filed in July 2011 and April 2013, alleging that the university failed to respond promptly and equitably to reports that the students had been sexually assaulted.

Experts have noted an increase in reported sexual assaults could mean more sexual violence, but it also could mean that more assaults are being reported to law enforcement. Sexual assaults generally are under-reported, advocates say, so an increase in reporting could mean more victims are comfortable coming forward.

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Campus sexual assault has drawn increased public scrutiny over the last few years, thanks in part to high-profile cases such as Brock Turner of Bellbrook and because the Trump administration recently rolled back Obama-era guidelines on how schools should handle allegations.

The annual report — mandated under the federal Clery Act — lists student education and prevention programs that have grown at many schools in recent years. The report is not comprehensive, though, as it includes only crimes that allegedly occurred on campus, not in landlord-owned student housing.

The report also lists drug and alcohol arrests and incidents referred for disciplinary action. At Wittenberg, both drug and alcohol arrests and disciplinary referrals both declined from 2015 to 2016.

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There was just one liquor law arrest in 2016, down from four in 2015 and three in 2014. The school issued 120 disciplinary referrals for alcohol violations, down from 145 in 2015, according to the report.

Wittenberg reported no drug-related arrests in 2016, down from two in 2015 and one in 2014. The school issued 65 disciplinary referrals for drug violations in 2016, down from 78 in 2015, according to the report.

“We believe that this is a direct result of the proactive approach that Student Development and the Police Division have jointly taken with regard to responsible social programming. In recent years, we have met with students to share information regarding Ohio Law and campus expectations,” Hutchins said.

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