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Why More Sexual Assault Reports At UW Might Show Progress

University of Washington's Suzzallo Library.
Flickr Photo/Curtis Cronn (CC-BY-NC-ND)/
University of Washington's Suzzallo Library.

New crime data showing sexual assault increasing at the University of Washington actually could be a sign of progress, according to a prevention expert.

In a federally required report issued this week, UW police said they received 20 reports of sexual assault on or near the Seattle campus in 2014, up from two the year before.

Police Cmdr. Craig Wilson says it comes down to more people reporting – not necessarily more assaults.

"Our police officers have been working more closely than ever with our advocates such as Student Life ... to create a better environment for getting the resources and for reporting," Wilson said.

Schools across the country have seen a jump in sexual assault reporting.

Kristen Houser, with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, says that's a good sign because it shows greater awareness about the problem.

"Seeing a zero for the number of reported rapes on campus should be the most concerning thing,” Houser said. “That's usually an indicator that the climate's not one where people feel comfortable coming forward."

She says that in the past, sexual assault victims felt stigmatized. But more media attention has helped, she said.

More than 100 universities, including the UW, are under a federal Title IX review for their handling of sexual assault.

The UW created a task force on sexual assault two years ago and offers confidential counseling to victims.