WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - We are less than half way through the year, but there have already been seven sexual assaults reported at UNCW. That's up from three reports during all of last year.
While that jump may sound alarming to university students and parents, the campus police chief says the change has more to do with new reporting guidelines than a surge in sex assaults.
In every case of sexual assault reported this year, the report is vague and anonymous. They have all been brought to police by 3rd parties like rape crisis counselors and student health employees who had contact with the victim.
"When we receive reports that just have minimal amount of information and doesn't allow us to do anything, it's very frustrating," UNCW Police Chief David Donaldson told WECT. "We know that's likely an opportunity that's been missed for us to intervene and perhaps prevent future cases."
Donaldson says he can't remember the last time his office actually had enough details about a sex assault to do a thorough investigation. Sexual assault is one of the most under reported crimes on the books - and victims frequently decline to prosecute.
Donaldson says new nationwide guidelines allow more people to file police reports about sexual assaults on college campuses, and that is what's behind UNCW's increase in reported sex crimes. "In this case we are talking about a change from 3 to 6 [a 7th case has been reported since this interview]. While statistically that may be a huge jump, we are talking about 13,000 students, over 4000 people live on campus throughout the school year, so it's still a very low number."
The campus police chief says increased reporting is a good thing, but cracking down on sexual assaults moving forward is going to require more help from the victims. He says his investigators need more information, and need that information as quickly as possible after the assault to conduct an effective investigation.
According to police reports, none of the assaults at UNCW involved attacks by strangers. The victims say they knew their attacker. Police reports also indicate most of the assaults happened in the dorms.
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