The annual crime log released by Bradley University Police Department indicated an increase in reports for rape, fondling and stalking.
Despite the increase in reports of this nature, BUPD Chief Brian Joschko said he believes the numbers come from an increase in reporting due to a strengthened trust in the BUPD and services on campus to share any incident that occurs.
“I don’t believe it’s an increase in the number of actual incidents,” Joschko said. “I do believe that it’s an increase in trust and that the university has done a great job of building trust amongst the students, so they feel comfortable coming and reporting.”
From 2015 to 2016, reports of rape increased from two to five total (150 percent increase). For fondling, the reports went from one to four total (300 percent increase), and reports of stalking increased from six to 12 total (300 percent increase).
Joschko said the number reflects both reports where the incident occurred on campus and on public property adjacent to campus. Greek houses are also included, but houses that are rented around the area are not.
Additionally, Joschko said the number represented in the crime log includes incidents reported to student affairs, residential advisors and to other authority figures. Counseling is not included due to confidentiality.
BUPD officers are trained specifically to handle these situations with sensitivity, according to Joschko.
“We’ve trained all of our officers in a trauma-informed investigative technique,” Joschko said. “What that really means is that our officers are listening to the students and are asking appropriate questions.”
According to Brandon Sheraden, vice president of campus safety in Student Senate, the reason for the increase comes from helping create a safe space for students and continuing to educate them on the topic of sexual assault.
“I would hope that people are feeling more comfortable to come forward about it,” Sheraden, a senior criminology major, said. “Bradley is doing a great job making the resources available known on campus, and students are able to utilize those.”
Among those resources are BUPD, the counseling center, the Peoria Center for Prevention of Abuse and the Center for Student Support Services.
According to Executive Director of the Center for Student Support Services Anne Hollis, efforts have been made at the university to respond with care toward those who have been sexually assaulted.
“This office has worked hard to educate [faculty, staff and student organizations] on how to respond [to survivors] and what to say and what not to say,” Hollis said.
Despite the training, Hollis said talking with students who have been sexually assaulted never gets easier.
“My heart breaks every single time I have to have this conversation again,” Hollis said.
As for the prevention of sexual assault, Joschko said he isn’t positive that there is an answer to stopping it from happening. Despite that, Joschko said students should be looking out for themselves and one another.
“The challenge with [preventing sexual assault] is that these are incidents that are most likely perpetrated by acquaintances … and that’s one of the reasons why I think this is such a violation of trust, because this is most likely a person that you trusted,” Joschko said. “There is a lot of power in [bystanders speaking up], and I think that’s probably the best way that we can make a difference.”
Additionally, Joschko also said that alcohol can play a factor in a majority of these cases.
“I would that say that, a lot of times, … alcohol is mixed into incidents of sexual assault, at least the vast majority of them that are reported to [BUPD],” Joschko said. “So I would careful about the overconsumption of alcohol.”
Hollis said faculty, staff and student organizations are also specifically trained in different ways to help students protect one another.
“The Bradley HEAT does a training on bystander intervention that has gone to all of the residence halls and some various other student organizations,” Hollis said. “We have a responsibility toward each other and what signs to look for and how to get help.”
Hollis said she hopes students feel comfortable to report if they have experienced sexual assault.
“We want [students] to know … that if this happens, [they] don’t have to go through it alone,” Hollis said.