CSUN’s annual security report, otherwise known as the Clery report, was released in October with one startling statistic: there had been 14 reported rape cases in 2016, a significant jump from the five reported in 2015.
Of the 14 reported, so far only one incident has resulted in an arrest. All but one case occurred in campus housing, and five of the reported rapes included in the 2016 numbers happened in previous years but were reported in 2016. Of those five, three were closed by the survivor’s wishes and the remaining two were anonymous reports.
That leaves nine reported rape cases in 2016. Of those nine, three were closed due to the survivor’s wishes, two were anonymous reports, and “four resulted in either an arrest or are still under criminal investigation” according to Carmen Ramos Chandler, the university’s Director of Media Relations.
Captain Scott VanScoy of the CSUN Police Department was able to elaborate on those four cases. As previously noted, one has resulted in an arrest, one is being reviewed by the District Attorney for either a warrant or prosecution, and the remaining two cases are awaiting the results of DNA evidence.
“Out of the 14 [cases in 2016] we have four that are actually going through,” Captain VanScoy said.
Four of the reported cases were anonymous, but what does that actually mean? Anonymous reports can either come from the survivors themselves, or from a campus mandated reporter. In compliance with Executive Order 1095, all university employees (excluding physicians, counselors, and advocates) must report all known details of sexual crimes, dating violence, sex discrimination, or stalking when they are made aware of them.
This means that all campus employees, excluding those mentioned above, are legally required to report anything they hear or are told about those crimes being committed. Regardless of the time, place, or details provided, they must make an anonymous online report or face dismissal.
“I will tell you that all of our anonymous reports [in 2016] came from a mandated reporter,” said Captain VanScoy.
So what does it take to report a rape on campus?
After the survivor has called the CSUN Police Department, an officer will arrive with a blue duffle bag. The bag contains a checklist of steps every responding officer will go through with a survivor, evidence collection materials, property receipts, and over a dozen informational pamphlets for the survivor to go through when they choose.
One of the first steps on the checklist is to call in an advocate for the survivor. Additionally, the CSUN Police Department requires all female officers to go through detective schooling where they are trained to respond to sexual assault cases sensitively.
Next, the survivor can choose to go the hospital for a full or partial exam. The advocate accompanies the survivor to explain every step along the way, and the survivor can refuse at any time. In addition to a physical exam, the hospital will perform a forensics interview.
After the hospital, the survivor will usually go back to the CSUN police department for any remaining questions. At this time, the survivor can notify the department if they wish to prosecute. Even if they don’t wish to go forward with the legal process, the police department holds all evidence indefinitely.
There is no longer a statute of limitations on rape cases, so even if a survivor returns decades later, they would be able to move forward with prosecution.
“Relive it once for us please so we can get the evidence, put it away, and we keep it forever,” Captain VanScoy said. “If you want to come back in 40 years we’ll have your evidence, we’ll have your story documented and evidence to back it, if you so choose.”
Why has CSUN seen an increase in reported rape cases?
“I think the culture of silence has been broken,” said student Liz Smith. “There’s no doubt there has been more rapes not reported, so seeing more reports isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
Captain VanScoy agrees.
“Why I think we see an increase in our reporting is the fact that we’re out there front and center. Not just us as the police, but the university,” he said. “We’re pushing this a lot more, please come to us.”