SSU should notify students of all campus rapes

Sonoma State may be able to scrape by the letter of the law with minimal campus-wide communication on sexual assaults and rapes, but it would be false to say that Sonoma State is making student safety its highest priority.    
     The Sonoma State STAR first began investigating rapes that occurred on campus after the 2018 Annual Security Report was released by Sonoma State this October.
     The STAR’s inquiries to University Police about 10 rapes on campus that were reported in 2017 in the Annual Security Report were initially unsuccessful. It took two Public Records Act requests to obtain even general case summaries from the university that detailed the circumstances of six of the 10 reported rapes.
     None of these six rapes that occured on campus received a timely warning because, according to University Police, they did not meet the criteria for a timely warning to students. 
     In fact, University Police haven’t sent timely warnings or campus-wide communication  regarding any sexual assault or rapes that happened on campus since September 25, 2016, despite the fact that these crimes were reported to the federal government via the Jeanne Clery Act.
     The story of Jeanne Clery is at the heart of this law. In 1986, when Clery was 19 year old, she was raped and murdered in her college dorm at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Her parents were left without answers since campus crime reporting did not have any regulations at that time.
     The Clery Act was created to make sure the parents and students are aware of the crime occurring on a campus before knowingly choosing to go to that college.
     Although the Clery Act was supposed to increase transparency and transform communication between campus officials and the campus community, it allows for varying degrees of discretion  by campus officials and police.
     In the wake of unanswered inquiries, the STAR learned that that University Police solely decide if a rape or sexual assault calls for a timely warning and that no other entity is involved in the decision process. This accounts  for the subjectivity of the timely warnings.
     Of the six rape summaries that the STAR received, three were reported within a day of the rape and all three alleged perpetrators were acquainted with the victim or were acquainted with someone the victim knew.
     However, University Police insinuated that rapes where the victim knew the alleged rapist or had an acquainted connection to them do not require a timely warning because the alleged rapist is not an “immediate or ongoing threat.
     This is like saying “date rape” or rape that occurs around a dorm party is not real rape. 
     Gross misclassification of rapists who knew the victim explains how Sonoma State’s disregard for student safety is allowed and kept buried within the annual safety reports and daily crime log.
       The 10 buried rape reports from 2017 are not an anomaly. Just since August this year, there have been six cases of rape reported in the University Police daily crime log, but the campus community received no notifications.
     According to national statistics, seven out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim and 33 percent of rapes are committed by an aquantinece, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).
     One of the rapes reported here the day after in 2017 involved the rape of a drugged female victim who was raped by a 23-year-old male, non-student friend of a friend who was invited to the their dorm.
     A college university, where social encounters and new situations abound, should err on the side of caution and transparency when alerting students to the frequency of sexual assaults and rape on campus.
       In comparison to other campus crimes, RAINN reported that college women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted than robbed. However, Sonoma State has no issue sending out burglary timely warnings and have sent out multiple in the past two years about burglary with tips on how to combat it.
     Sonoma State’s disregard for student safety should be alarming for everyone who lives, works and learns here.
     Regardless of the law, the disturbing pattern of rapes that have gone without campus-wide notification needs to be addressed.