Active Bystander, Campus Safety, ICU Application Clery data can indicate which colleges need to improve how they encourage students to report...

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What makes for good headlines, researchers and advocates say using federal reporting data to assess the prevalence of campus sexual assault or to rank the relative safeness of individual colleges is ill advised and even irresponsible.

“It is really misguided to use sexual assault reports as rankings, because schools with higher rates are actually doing a better job of encouraging reporting and addressing the issue,” Laura Dunn, founder and executive director of the victims’ advocacy organization SurvJustice, said. “By ranking schools with higher rates as unsafe, the media’s uninformed coverage is actually discouraging schools from better addressing campus sexual assault. We don’t want to push reports into the shadows; we want [assaults] to be reported and dealt with appropriately.”

The Data

Under the federal Clery Act, colleges and universities are required to collect and disclose statistics about crimes that occur on campus. That includes domestic violence, stalking and rape. In previous years, rape was included under a broader category of “forcible sex offenses.” This year, because of changes to the Clery Act in 2014, rape reports are listed separately. The numbers are made publicly available by the U.S. Department of Education and on the colleges’ websites.

While comparing campus climate surveys with Clery data can indicate which colleges need to improve how they encourage students to report rape and sexual assault

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