IOWA CITY, Iowa- The University of Iowa community is seeing more "timely warnings' from campus police about alleged sexual assaults. But it's not necessarily due to a sudden rash of sexual offense cases.
The number of sexual offense reports to U of I campus police did increase from 33 in 2011 to 40 in 2012 to 45 in 2013. University officials say some of that increase is probably due to more victims being willing to report a crime. The university's definition of sexual offenses includes unwanted touching in addition to rape.
But the numbers that are causing a stir in Iowa City now are those "timely warnings" that highlight the cases.
In the last school year, U of I police issued just one warning. So far this school year, the number is 10 including a new one issued just Friday.
Georgina Dodge, Chief Diversity Officer for the university, said those warnings now relflect alleged cases of date or acquaintance rape as well as those involving an unknown attacker.
"We want people to know these incidents are happpening. We want people to take ownership and as a result what you are seeing is a great deal of anxiety because people want to do some, they want this to stop," Dodge said.
Dodge said six of the ten warnings issue by campus police this year involve an alleged attacker known to the victim.
It's a change in reporting philosophy brought on in part by the need to better adhere to a federal crime reporting requirement for colleges.
For the most part, the increased number of warnings is getting support from groups that work with sexual assault victims.
Karen Siler, assistant director with the Iowa City Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP) said "I think anytime there's awareness it's a good thing and it prompts a conversation to let people know this is happening in our community."
University leaders acknowledge the big increase in timely warnings about sexual assaults has sparked both talk and concern on social media on the campus.
But they insist it's necessary to get ahead of the issue.
University officials said of the ten cases so far that prompted a timely warning to campus, half the victims did not want police involvement.