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Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    Sonoma State sees rise in campus rapes, but not in warnings


    Despite a 100 percent increase in reported campus rapes in 2017, Sonoma State students have received no campus-wide communication of any sexual assault or rapes for over two years.

    The last timely warning sent to students regarding rape occurred on September 25, 2016 and there have been no timely warnings regarding sexual assault or rape since. However in the 2017 Annual Security Report, University Police reported 10 rapes.

    One case in 2017 involved an unknown and unidentified male suspect attending a dorm party, who sneaked into a bedroom and raped a student victim, according to the case summaries provided to the STAR. University police said they have no suspects.

    Another 2017 dorm room rape, this one of a drugged victim, involved a 23-year-old male suspect who was not a student, and was reported right after it happened.

    The suspect was labeled as a “friend of a friend invited to the victim’s apartment by the victim’s suitemate,” according to university police statements released to the STAR after two public records requests.

    A third reported rape in the dorms, “by force/fear,” involved an 18-year-old male suspect and 18-year-old victim where both were students, and acquaintances with each other. This rape was also reported soon after it happened.

    A fourth reported rape of an intoxicated female victim involved two 18-year-old students who had a prior dating relationship.

    A fifth rape was reported a month after it occurred when the Student Health Center reported suspicious injuries to University Police. The suspect didn’t attend Sonoma State and was invited to the victim’s dorm room after they met on an online dating site.

    A sixth reported rape in the dorms, “by force/fear,” involved an 19-year-old non-student male suspect, who was a guest of the victim’s suitemate, and 18-year-old student victim.

    “These cases did not meet the criteria for a timely warning,” Chief of Police David Dougherty said, referring to all campus rapes reported to police in 2017. The university does a case by case analysis to determine if an ongoing or continuing threat to the community exists.

    All these cases were reported to the federal government under the requirements of the Clery act, a federal law that requires colleges to disclose campus security information, including sending out timely warnings when there is an ongoing threat to the campus community.

    2017 saw the number of reported rapes double, according to Sonoma State’s 2018 Annual Security Report.

    2017 saw the number of reported rapes double, according to Sonoma State’s 2018 Annual Security Report.

    The university summary of 2017 rape reports was only provided to the STAR following two Public Records Act Requests, the first of which was denied by University Police. The summary only included six of the 10 campus rapes reported to the federal government in 2017.

    Sonoma State police would not release information into whether there were any arrests in these cases. They also wouldn’t say if there was any disciplinary action taken by the university.

    The webpage where all crime alerts, bulletins, and timely warnings are normally posted hasn’t been updated in over two years.

    Sonoma State has sent out six timely warnings in 2018 and three in 2017, all of them for burglary or theft.

    Most of the rape cases in 2017 involved two people who knew each other, ranging from acquaintances to people who previously dated.

    In previous years, timely warnings were often sent out even when the people involved were acquainted with each other. A timely warning sent on Nov. 14, 2015, said “Police and Safety Services is investigating a possible sexual assault…according to a third-party report of this incident, the female victim was acquainted with the suspect.”

    Timely warnings generally don’t provide specifics, beyond what can prevent the crime from happening again, but are supposed to inform students of crimes and threats to safety.

    Missy Brunetta, the Clery coordinator for Sonoma State, said University Police are the ones making the decision if a timely warning is appropriate because they see the crime details, trends, and have the investigative tools.

    “I am confident the police are making the right decisions,” she said.

    Brunetta sees an opportunity for the university to communicate on-campus sexual assaults outside of timely warnings, because not every case meets the criteria.

    “Every situation is different,” she said.

    “Timely warnings aren’t the only way to have access to this information,” she said. Crime alerts, bulletins, and emails are other ways to inform students.

    Chief of Police David Dougherty said the University Police department is currently working to update the maintenance of the webpage where all crime alerts, bulletins,and timely warnings are supposed to be posted.

    Regarding the uptick of rapes, Brunetta said she “hopes that more people are coming forward instead of more horrible things happening.”

    Sexual assault affects many people at Sonoma State Laura Williams, the director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), said that this school year there has been an increase in people coming in for sexual assault and in people saying they had been sexually assaulted. She said the numbers in the crime report are very low based on data from CAPS.

    The number of reported rapes on campus this year hasn’t been made available.

    University Police removed the daily crime log from the police webpage for months prior to August 2018, so it’s difficult to know the total amount of reported rapes so far this year. But since August, there have been at least six rape cases, as defined by the Clery act, and no campus-wide communication of any of them.

    “We are constantly striving for ways to better serve our students and are open to constructive feedback,” Dougherty said. “Aside from continuing to utilize the timely warning process and web-based daily crime log, the university police department periodically strives to connect and communicate with our community.”

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