Incidents of acquaintance rape up on campus

Daily Sundial

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Security guards and closed gates give many students living in the dorms a sense of security, preventing strangers from entering the buildings.

However, an acquaintance rapist is most likely already inside the gates well before they are ever closed.

Of the six reported sexual assaults that occurred at CSUN last year, all were acquaintance rapes, also referred to as date rape. All of them involved alcohol, and all but one of them took place in the dorms, said Lt. Scott VanScoy, special services lieutenant for campus police.

“I really don’t feel afraid,” said Mayumi Gumatay, freshman art major. “There are security guards everywhere. They close the gates early so you need your I.D. card to get in.”

In 2003, there were two sexual assaults reported at CSUN. That number escalated to six reported cases in 2004, but there do not seem to be any definitive factors that can explain the reasons for the increase.

“I think it happens over time,” VanScoy said. “(It’s just) the ebb and flow of things that happen in a community.”

Although the number of cases appears to still be relatively low, the number of possible unreported cases also draws concern.

“When looking at that number, even one is too much,” VanScoy said. “You look at the number (of reported rapes), and it may look like a small number, but you have to consider that for every one rape that’s reported, 10 other (cases) go unreported.”

By that estimation, there could have been approximately 20 rapes committed in 2003 and 60 in 2004 in the dorms and campus that went unreported.

The best way to avoid rape is to take preventive measures so that it does not happen at all, VanScoy said. But it helps to take a self-defense course, such as the rape aggression defense class held at CSUN multiple times a year. In addition, women are urged not to place themselves in a situation where there are no people present, and they are encouraged to park and walk in well-lit areas whenever possible.

The main suggestion made to women is to trust their instincts, because if something feels strange, it probably is, VanScoy said.

But the nature of the crime keeps some women from coming forward in reporting the crime.

“(Women do) not want to go through the drama,” VanScoy said. “They don’t think reporting the crime is going to do any good.”

For the past 15 years, the Date Rape/Sexual Assault Policy Committee, which is comprised of staff, students, the Valley Trauma Center and other volunteers, has been a part of CSUN and has taken the responsibility of coordinating campus prevention education programs to promote awareness of rape, acquaintance rape and other sexual crimes. In addition, the Valley Trauma Center is available to assist rape survivors throughout the entire process, even through court trials.

Crime rates have fallen for almost every other crime in the past year by using prevention strategies in the campus community. Many of them are subtle techniques most people would not notice, but the psychological effects they have on potential criminals are believed by the police to be the main cause of the improvements, such as just having visible police officers, VanScoy said.

Burglary decreased from 47 incidents in 2003 to eight in 2004. Vehicle theft went down from 10 in 2003 to one last year and robberies went from seven two years ago to three last year.

But because acquaintance rape does not involve anyone sneaking around in the dark or trying to break into someone’s house or dorm, these techniques have virtually no effect on preventing it, VanScoy said.

Only one reported case of rape by a stranger has been reported in the eight years he has been on the job at CSUN, VanScoy said.