The number of reported rapes at the University of Hawaii’s flagship campus quadrupled between 2015 and 2016, according to the latest data that the university reported in accordance with a federal mandate.
There were three rapes at the Manoa campus in 2015 compared to 13 in 2016, according to data published last October. Eleven of the 13 reported rapes allegedly took place in student housing facilities. At least four of the incidents were filed by the same person.
University of Hawaii president David Lassner speaks at a symposium in 2016. He is implementing reforms for how the university handles sexual misconduct complaints.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Dan Meisenzahl, spokesman for UH, said in a phone interview that the increase was disturbing but not surprising.
“We expected an increase in the number of reported sexual assaults and claims of sexual harassment because of the increased awareness of Title IX issues,” he said, referring to a federal civil rights law barring gender discrimination.
He said over the past several years, UH created a UH Manoa Title IX office, updated its policies regarding sexual misconduct and increased training for staff.
In 2015, University of Hawaii president David Lassner announced a policy of zero tolerance for rape on all campuses and created an Office of Institutional Equity to standardize how the university handles complaints.
“We expect numbers to go up, we’ve seen it across the country,” he added. “Once you step up services, once you step up awareness you have more people coming forward.”
One federal study found the number of reported sexual assaults on college campuses jumped more than 200 percent between 2001 and 2014. Some observers say the increase may be partially due to victims feeling more comfortable speaking up.
The university has not yet officially released the number of rapes on campus reported in 2017 and doesn’t plan to do so until October. But Meisenzahl said the preliminary number is seven — more than double compared to 2015 but a significant drop from 2016.
“The numbers reported last October, whether they were low or high, really had no impact on the direction that the university is headed,” Meisenzahl said.
He said the university plans to stay the course despite the potential for new federal policies by the Trump administration that would give more rights to students accused of misconduct.
A federal investigation earlier this year found that the University of Hawaii fell short of Title IX requirements in recent years by failing to properly investigate complaints and manage grievance procedures. The university entered into a voluntary resolution agreement in January and committed to continuing its reforms.
“We’re committed to being a national model,” Meisenzahl said. “It’s never been about being compliant. It’s about doing the right thing.”
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