On Monday, Jan. 28, Sonoma State University issued a timely warning crime bulletin, via email, to inform students that a reported rape was being investigated. According to the bulletin, the alleged rape occurred the previous Saturday in the campus Residential Community.
“The female victim and suspect were acquaintances,” the bulletin stated. “A beverage she was served at some point during the evening may have included a controlled substance.”
Associate Vice President for Strategic Communications Paul Gullixson said that the investigation is ongoing and that no arrests have been made at this point.
The crime bulletin is issued in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Act, a federal statute which requires schools whose students receive federal financial aid to report certain types of crimes and crime statistics to students. It was the first timely warning about a rape issued by the university in more than two years.
The report included suggestions for students to improve personal safety. These suggestions included avoiding accepting beverages with unknown origins, walking on well-lit pathways after dark, and reporting suspicious activities to campus police. It concluded with a list of resources for students to report crime on campus.
“There are many opportunities that exist for people to confide information,” Gullixson said. “The University police department, our Title IX department, and if they respond to a physician -- that’s an opportunity. There are many mandated reporters out there that can be a vehicle for people to share information about attacks. We want our students, as well as faculty and staff, to know that safety is a top priority here on campus. We want them to know that if something like this happens to them we want them to feel comfortable going to someone in an authority position.”
In December, the STAR reported that, despite a 100 percent increase in reported rapes in 2017, the last timely warning crime bulletin sent out to students was in September 2016. The Jan. 28 warning was the first to be released since that time, even though there were ten rapes reported in 2017, according to the 2018 Annual Security Report.
Gullixson said that the reason those alleged rapes were not reported to students was because they fell outside the parameters of the Clery Act. “The Clery Act is very specific about when you issue timely warnings,” he said. “It’s called for in situations where there’s a serious and continuing threat to students and employees.”
According to Gullixson, there are some types of reported rapes that do not call for a bulletin to be sent out. “We have issued 11 timely warnings over the last 18 months. None of these have concerned alleged sexual assaults, until now,” he said. “That’s primarily because those cases that were reported to us, September 2016 until now, have not been of the type that called for the timely warning as required by the Clery Act.,” he said. Most of the recent cases involved individuals who knew each other in advance. In these cases, more often than not, there’s state and federal laws which are meant to protect the privacy rights of involved parties. They limit the information that we can release as a campus.”