Crime Statistics Indicate Decline in Sexual Assaults at UVM

According to UVM Police Services Annual Crime Statistics, 2001 saw the lowest reported incidents of sexual assault since 1998, when the statistics were first recorded. While a recent study conducted by the Department of Justice found that about one out of every 20 women are victims of rape or attempted rape on college campuses each year, there were no official reports of sexual assault at UVM in 2001. However, Victim’s Advocate Anne Smith of the UVM Women’s Center warns the statistics may be misleading. “Most cases of sexual assault are not reported due to barriers that confront the victim,” Smith said. “Fear that the perpetrator will retaliate, if reported, is a major concern.” The University of Vermont recently received a major federal grant of roughly $295,000 in an effort to promote prevention programs and victim advocacy. The crux of this effort is victim empowerment. Working in conjunction with off-campus organizations such as the Women’s Rape Crisis Center, the UVM Women’s Center is able to better inform a victim of her choices with absolute confidentiality. “Confidentiality is the most important thing,” said Victim Counselor Natali Smith at the Women’s Rape Crisis Center. “Nothing that is said here ever leaves the room.” Victims of sexual assault also have the choice of consulting the Chittenden Unit Special Investigations. CUSI is a multi-disciplinary entity that offers various options to victims, including counseling. One of its key features, according to Lieutenant Mike Schirling, is that the victim is not required to pursue legal action against the offender. “With CUSI, the victim can proceed with the investigation as much or as little as she wants.” To find out more information about victim services or any of the organizations listed above, contact the UVM Women’s Center at 656-7892.