Campus sexual assault statistics in WNY

Posted at 6:38 PM, Aug 25, 2016

With classes about to start at colleges across the country, one local university is putting an added emphasis on its approach to sexual violence on campus.  At the University at Buffalo, incoming freshman will attend a new event during orientation covering the topic.

7 Eyewitness News took a closer look at four local schools to see how widespread the problem is.  Using data from the U.S. Department of Education, some statistics on campus sexual assaults and other types of relationship violence can be found below.  This is the latest information available and covers reports made in 2014.

Buffalo State

  • Rape: 3
  • Fondling:  1
  • Domestic Violence:  1
  • Dating Violence:  12
  • Stalking:  7

University at Buffalo

  • Rape:  1
  • Fondling:  6
  • Domestic Violence:  21
  • Dating Violence:  0
  • Stalking:  7

Canisius College

  • Rape:  0
  • Fondling:  0
  • Domestic Violence:  0
  • Dating Violence:  0
  • Stalking:  0

Niagara University

  • Rape:  2
  • Fondling:  3
  • Domestic Violence:  0
  • Dating Violence:  3
  • Stalking:  0

Officials at University at Buffalo warn that these numbers are actually lower than what they're seeing.  The information from the U.S. Department of Education covers only assaults occurring on campus.  When accounting for attacks off or near campus, the numbers are much higher.

"The numbers that we find are closer to 20 [sexual assaults] a year," Sharon Nolan-Weiss said.  She is the Title IX Coordinator for University at Buffalo.

Her office looks at reports from different agencies within the University and surrounding area to learn more about sexual violence at the school.

According to Nolan-Weiss, the 20 assaults they see each year is actually much less than the true number.

"We know even those are underreported," she said.  "This is a very underreported offense and we're trying to change that."

One new push is happening right now at the school.  Incoming freshman are required to attend an event during orientation that teaches them about the dangers of sexual assault on campus.  It is called Sex Signals and also shows students what to look out for when they're at school.

"Sex Signals is a way for them to understand a situational context," Nolan-Weiss said.  "You know--how a sexual assault situation may happen.  They can understand in a scenario-based way what some of the factors are that may lead to sexual assault."

This event is on top of online work covering sexual assault that all incoming freshman had to complete before moving in.  All of it together teaches students that sexual assault can happen to anyone.

"We know on college campuses, in 80 to 90 percent of the cases, the assailant is somebody who the victim knows," Nolan-Weiss explained.  "It's most like to occur in a victim's residence.  Alcohol can be a factor, it's not always."