Thursday, June 12, 2014

Expert: Boise State Has a Big Problem in Underreporting Sex Crimes

Posted By on Thu, Jun 12, 2014 at 1:56 PM

Dr. Caroline Heldman, who Boise Weekly readers first met in a February 2013 Citizen profile, unleashed a stunning presentation on sexual assaults on American campuses during a Thursday session of the Andrus Center for Public Policy's Politics for Lunch series. Heldman's address packed the room at Boise State's BoDo offices in Downtwon Boise, in what the Andrus Center Director Dr. David Adler called a record-setting audience.

Heldman asked attendees to raise their hands if they knew of someone who had been the victim of sexual assault.

"Look around; with very few exceptions, everyone's hand is up," she said.

Heldman began her presentation by pushing back against what she called the "watered-down term known as non-consensual sexual contact."

"I'm a proponent of calling what it is," said Heldman. "And what it is, is rape."

Simply put, Heldman said the nation faces an ongoing epidemic of rape on more than 5,000 college campuses. She said 1 in 5 college women face assault or rapeā€”much higher than the overall average.

"Saying it another way, quite bluntly: If you're a woman going to college, you're more likely to be raped than not going to college," she said, stunning the room of Boise State students, faculty and staff along with the general public.

And then Heldman unleashed her most sobering statement of the afternoon:

"By these standards, I estimate that Boise State had approximately 220 sexual attacks. Yet only four were reported in 2010, six in 2011 and six in 2012," said Heldman to the room, which instantly began a combination of stunned silence and shaking heads. "You have a vast underreporting problem."

Heldman said as many as 55 universities were currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for alleged underreporting and/or an alleged lack of protections for its students.

"But here's the good news. At least those schools will be doing something about it. You, at least, know that your child is going to a school that has a public discussion on this," she added.

In a timely follow-up, Adler announced that the Andrus Center would be hosting its annual conference, with the theme of "Women in Leadership" on the campus of Boise State Sept. 10-12.

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