Campus sex crimes an undeniable reality

Sex crimes are more prevalent on campus than we realize. The trouble is that many victims are so distressed by their experience that they would rather disassociate themselves from it, move on with their lives and not report the crime.

This is of course a valid reaction, but the problem lies in that the offender continues to offend, which creates more victims. A reported sex crime could potentially save another person from being emotionally or physically violated.

While “sex crime” is a general term encompassing a multitude of sex-related crimes, students are susceptible to everything from voyeurism to rape, because there have been reports of every variety.

Most recently, there have been reports of indecent exposure, classified as a lewdness crime, in a campus building. While the witnesses to these offenses reported them, they were naturally traumatized by the experience.

“A major concern with anyone who commits a crime of this type is what they are going to do next? Are they going to physically assault someone? Rape them? It is a serious issue for us,” said UVU Police Sergeant Justin Sprague.

Offenders have been reported for exposing themselves in buildings, in the parking lot, on the bus – no location is exempt from this crime, although perpetrators generally engage in these behaviors in unpopulated areas.

“For a while we had an individual who would ask females for directions in the parking lot, and when they walked over to his car he would have himself exposed,” Sprague said. “Most of the victims would freak out and run away, but the last one ridiculed his size and wrote down his license plate number. When we arrested him in front of his wife and child, we found out that he was a repeat offender and had been doing this over at BYU and other locations.”

Since 2005, a total of nine incidents of lewdness have been reported by UVU students, but Sprague believes that more incidents of lewdness have occurred.

While victims of sex crimes tend to be women, males have reported offenses as well.

“The one that sticks out in my mind involved a guy who was doing his business in a bathroom stall and realized that another guy was watching him over the dividing wall. He popped up, opened the door, and laid him out flat,” Sprague said.

There are video cameras installed throughout campus which allows the Utah Valley University Police Department (UVUPD) to identify and apprehend suspects, but it can be difficult to observe everything. This is where some responsibility is lain on the shoulders of  witnesses to report the crimes being committed. In these cases, the UVUPD are often able to look back through the recordings to search for the offender.

To students who are on campus late into the night, a car parked relatively close must seem miles away. Sprague reminds that students are always welcome to call UVUPD if they feel unsafe and they will work with students to insure security.

“I still feel that we should improve the lighting at some of the crosswalks and a few locations on campus, but hopefully students will feel safer with the small flashlight key chain and whistle provided by UVUSA in those areas until we get that extra lighting,” said Student Body President Trevor Tooke.

Suggestions for increased safety measures can be given to UVUSA and they will work with UVUPD in implementing them.

By increasing the usage of UVUPD as a safety resource and by assisting them through reporting crimes as soon as they happen, more offenders will be apprehended and campus crime rates will hopefully begin to decline.

Info Box: UVUPD can be contacted at (801)863-5555; To make safety suggestions email UVUSA at studentgovernment@uvu.edu.

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