University of Iowa student reports sex assault involving online acquaintance

Incident prompts fourth campus alert of school year

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IOWA CITY — A University of Iowa student this week reported being sexually assaulted over the weekend in a west side residence hall by an acquaintance met online, according to warning distributed to the campus.

The student, who lives on campus, told UI officials the assault occurred Sunday, and officials on Tuesday notified UI police, who are investigating the allegations. The victim and suspect were acquaintances and met on a website. Officials are not specifying which site or releasing any other potentially identifying information.

The report prompted a “timely warning” to be sent to the entire UI campus community, including students, faculty, staff, and parents who sign up to receive such warnings. It is the fourth warning issued so far this academic year — just four weeks into the fall semester.

UI police issued the first warning Aug. 19, about a week before classes began, alerting the campus to a reported assault late Aug. 17 near the Iowa River. In that case, a victim reported being pulled into a construction area by an unknown suspect and sexually assaulted.

The second warning came Aug. 24 from a student who reported being touched inappropriately by an acquaintance in an east side residence hall. The third warning was sent Aug. 31 about a sexual assault involving acquaintances in an east side dorm late Aug. 28. The university issued nine crime alerts for reported sexual misconduct in the 2014-2015 academic year, involving a total of 11 incidents.

The university issues the campuswide warnings in compliance with the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. It also has a six-point plan to combat sexual assault that focuses on cracking down on offenders, increasing support for victims, and improving prevention and education efforts.

In the 2014 calendar year, UI police took 13 reports of sexual abuse and one report of attempted sexual abuse — an increase from previous years. The department took four reports in 2013, according to annual statistics. So far in 2015, the department has received seven reports of sexual assault.

The UI Office of the Sexual Misconduct Response Coordinator also fields incident reports, including those that might not rise to the level of policy violation or criminal behavior. That office took a total of 235 reports in 2013 and 300 reports in 2014, according to Monique DiCarlo, sexual misconduct response and deputy Title IX coordinator.

Of the 2013 reports, 54 involved sexual assault and 108 involved sexual harassment. Of the 2014 total, 87 involved sexual assault and 109 involved sexual harassment.

DiCarlo has told The Gazette the increase might not reflect a rise in reportable behavior. but rather a bump in the number of people willing to come forward and report concerns.

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