Number of reported sexual assault cases over last 5 years 'defies all logic and reason'

An analysis of how many sexual assaults have been reported and investigated on public Louisiana college campuses was released by the Board of Regents on Monday, and the numbers are low.

In fact, the state senator who requested the data, J.P. Morrell, said the numbers are likely too low to be accurate. For example, LSU reported a total of only 22 sexual assault cases reported and investigated between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2013.

"It speaks volumes that the discrepancies between anonymous surveys and actual reporting are night and day," said Morrell.

Morrell said anonymous surveys show an average of five percent of students are sexually assaulted. On LSU's main campus, that would mean 1,500 victims a year.

If a school uses best practices and aggressively tries to curb the violent trend, Morrell said that number should be much lower. However, he said, the actual number is likely not as low as just 22 cases in five years.

"When you have a campus of 30,000 people and over five years you say that you've had 22 sexual assaults - that defies all logic and reason," said Morrell.

That number, 22, was the highest number of reported or investigated sexual assault cases by any public college's campus security in Louisiana. Grambling University reported 15 cases in five years, and UL reported 13 cases.

All seem to be impossibly low numbers, according to Morrell.

"I am aware of the fact that at several schools they have an alternative dispute situation where they ask young women who don't want to go to the police, do you want to go through on campus system?" said Morrell. "Well, if you look at these numbers, they're not saying that actually ever happened."

Morrell said the report either shows that students who are assaulted are not comfortable coming forward, or colleges didn't count sexual assaults reported to other campus authorities, such as Panhellinic councils or athletic departments.

"In the McCaskill report, there was a lot of concern that in 30 percent of Division 1 schools, when an athlete was charged or alleged to have sexual assault, they allowed the athletic department to investigate it," said Morrell.

Morrell specifically asked schools to report "the written investigation and adjudication procedures for sexual assaults on each campus, including but not limited to any special provisions that allow agencies/departments other than campus police and/or other law enforcement agencies to investigate sexual assault and/or rape allegations."

However, most did not include those provisions. Many schools just copied and pasted their student handbook.

"University of Louisiana Monroe gave a very in-depth listing of how often they try to provide outreach to students on sexual assault, which is from what I saw the best in the state," said Morrell. "Yet, other universities, in responding to my sexual assault request, gave me tremendous amounts of data on sexual harassment, which is a very very very different thing."

Overall, the report showed that most schools have little or no required sexual assault training for faculty and staff.

"It's more likely that a victim will approach an authority figure, it could be a professor of history let's say at a school and say, 'I was sexually assaulted, what do I do?' Well, if that professor has no idea what the policy is, or what to do, then they're not going to be much help," said Morrell. "That initial interaction really shapes how that person goes forward from there. If they're discouraged, it's a very traumatic situation and they may do nothing. But, if that person is kind of pointed in the right direction from the get-go, it's more likely you'll get an actual resolution."

A focus on training is of many policies Morrell said he wants to change with legislation.

"I think at this point, looking at it, the only thing that was clear and indisputable is that there is no statewide policy on sexual assault on campuses. Every campus kind of does what they want to do, and the fact that there is no uniformity means it's hard to have accountability," said Morrell.

"I can't make every college in the United States safer, but I can try to make the colleges in Louisiana somewhat safer, so that's kind of the goal," said Morrell.

FOX 8 reached out to the Board of Regents for comment but never received a statement or returned phone call.

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