The annual rape statistics compiled by D.C. police are inaccurate. They don't reflect all the rapes and sexual assaults that occur on area college and university campuses. Instead, the institutions of higher education share this information with the federal Education Department, an entity far removed from the criminal-justice system.
The federal campus safety law known as the Clery Act mandates that colleges share their annual rape statistics with the Education Department. In 2015, 21 students at George Washington University, my alma mater, reported to the school that they had been raped. GWU then shared this information with federal education officials.
What's startling about the annual GWU report is the number of rapes that were shared with D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department. In 2015, when GWU reported 21 rapes to education officials, it reported one to the police. One. One additional rape was reported to campus police.
I started looking at the rape statistics in preparation for moderating a panel discussion last month at GWU. Representatives from the school's Title IX office and the D.C. police were invited to talk about their roles in the criminal-justice system. I opened the discussion by sharing information about D.C. crime statistics.
According to the MPD annual report, in 2015, there were 38 incidents of sexual abuse in D.C.'s 2nd District , home to GWU and other universities. (I focused on the 2nd District because of my talk at GWU.) But of those 38 sexual abuse incidents reported to MPD, only one occurred at GWU. What happened to the others that GWU reported to federal education officials?
Why aren't area colleges and universities reporting all rape and sexual assault allegations to D.C.'s police department? It's a question we all should be asking. These are criminal offenses with lifelong consequences and should be treated as such.
"George Washington University follows guidelines issued by the Department of Education and Title IX that emphasize maintaining the confidentially of the survivor and working in partnership with the survivor to determine how to move forward with a criminal complaint, if the survivor desires," Renee McPhatter, GWU's assistant vice president for government and community relations, said in an emailed response. "Students who report an incident to the Title IX Office are entitled to university assistance even if they do not wish to move forward with a formal complaint through the university's student conduct complaint process or filing a police report."
Additionally, we should be asking why there is only one medical facility in the District that conducts rape kit examinations. GWU students repeatedly asked the school's Title IX and MPD representatives last month to explain this shortsighted policy. Why should an individual who is raped at GWU have to go to Columbia Heights to undergo a medical examination instead of walking two blocks to the school's hospital? Because that's the established policy, they were told.
The established policies need to be upended. The District isn't a poor backwater. It's the nation's capital, and there should be medical facilities — hospitals, urgent-care centers — that offer rape kits in all eight wards. And the medical facilities on college and university campuses should offer rape kits. And, of course, all sexual assaults on D.C. campuses should be reported to the police.
The writer is a D.C. advisory neighborhood Commissioner.