PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island colleges are reporting sexual assaults to the federal government but few cases result in criminal charges, a newspaper investigation published Tuesday found.
Over a 10-year period that ended in 2012, 10 Rhode Island colleges and universities reported more than 500 sex offenses to the U.S. Department of Education, yet at the four campuses that have their own police forces, just one sexual assault case was filed to them, The Providence Journal reported (http://bit.ly/RnCn4a ). Campus police are in place at the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, Community College of Rhode Island and Brown.
At URI, 59 sex assaults were reported to the federal government from 2009 to 2012, and just 14 of those to campus police, school data showed. One case was referred to state police.
Sexual assaults on college campuses nationwide were brought into the spotlight with a White House report last week pressing colleges nationwide to do a better job addressing the issue.
Peg Langhammer, executive director of Day One, a Providence nonprofit that aids victims of sexual abuse, says colleges generally refer sexual assault victims to seek medical treatment and counseling, and to bring their complaints to college disciplinary boards.
The students are not encouraged to press charges, in part to protect the school's reputation, she said.
"Institutions in many ways are protecting themselves and not wanting to appear as an unsafe environment," Langhammer said. "I get it. But it's not in the best interest of students."
Schools are not required to report sexual assaults to police and policies vary.
The University of Rhode Island says it tells police of any sexual assault reported on campus, and encourages students to go to local authorities to report off-campus incidents.
J. Malcolm Smith, dean of students at Salve Regina University in Newport, said, the university is "not in a position to require" students to report sexual assaults to the police, nor should it be.
"We're not trying to establish whether there's a crime," Smith said, "but whether there's been a violation of code of conduct."
Information from: The Providence Journal, http://www.providencejournal.com