Sunday, November 19, 2017
Education

Pursuing college rapes tough

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No one gets convicted of campus rape at Florida's public universities, an analysis of records has found.

In 2012 and 2013, 55 rapes were reported to campus police departments, show records reviewed by the Orlando Sentinel. Arrests were made only in five. Three were dismissed, and two remain open at Florida Gulf Coast University.

The analysis also found:

•At the University of Central Florida, 16 rape cases were reported in those two years. Four of them led to arrests. None led to rape convictions.

The Sentinel also was able to obtain police reports on rapes reported to UCF police from 2005 to 2011. There were 28 cases in those years. Nine led to arrests, but there were no rape convictions.

Three state-university campuses, Florida Atlantic, New College and University of South Florida at St. Petersburg, had no rapes reported in 2012 or ',13 but police there did handle some in 2011. None of those six rape cases led to convictions, either.

•Four of every five campus-rape cases reviewed by the Sentinel involved what could be called "date rapes." In three of every four cases, the alleged victims reportedly were highly intoxicated.

Police, prosecutors, rape victims' advocates and social scientists all agree that the numbers show the difficulty of pursuing campus-rape allegations.

"Yeah, they're tough,'' said UCF police Chief Richard Beary. "A lot of the cases, alcohol is involved. That's one of the big issues. Most of the time, it's an acquaintance, it's some type of party, so it doesn't fall into that, what you see in some jurisdictions, where it's a stranger attack."

Nationally and in Florida, concerns about campus rape have exploded. The issue was spotlighted last year when Florida State University star quarterback Jameis Winston was named as a suspect, then cleared in an alleged rape case.

In recent months, studies and White House and congressional reports have declared that campus rape is widespread and that too many colleges do too little to stop it.

Surveys, most notably the 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study, cited by both the White House in April and Congress in July, found 19 percent of female college students said they had been raped in college. Only one of 25 said they reported the rapes to police.

Justice "is a long process, a very frustrating process. ... For a lot, it's just too much. And it's not imperative to their recovery," said Sarah Webb, senior victim advocate at the Victim Service Center of Central Florida, which provides sexual-violence-victim counseling.

In Florida, university police departments say they take rape allegations seriously. Typically, several officers investigate. Victims are referred to victim's advocates; witnesses and suspects are interviewed; security-camera videos and entry card-readers are checked; and clothing and other evidence are sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for DNA tests.

Commonly, particularly at UCF, the police reports tell of the police recording a telephone call from the victim to her alleged attacker to see whether she can get him to confess.

In a Florida State case in February 2012, campus police created a photographic lineup of 30 members of a fraternity where a rape was alleged. In an August 2012 FSU case, 11 campus officers brought a battering ram and drew guns to search a fraternity.

"As we cleared the house, we knocked on the bedroom doors, again announcing 'Police, search warrant' in loud voices. We also told everyone to exit with their hands up," reported FSU Officer L. Pruett.

Universities also have noncriminal student-discipline programs that victims can use instead of courts. They offer a lower standard of proof and no criminal punishment. In the past three years, UCF's program handled 14 rape cases. Two rape suspects were suspended for two years, one for two semesters, and one was placed on probation.

Colleges report all known campus-rape allegations to the U.S. Department of Education, including many not reported to police. In 2012, the last year for which the DOE data are available, the University of Florida learned of 12 reported rapes on campus, while the UF police investigated only one.

UCF told the DOE about 11 reported campus rapes in 2012, while the police investigated just five.

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