Police seeing increase in sexual assaults involving MSU students

Police seeing increase in sexual assaults involving MSU students
Posted at 8:42 AM, Sep 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-15 08:42:13-04

East Lansing Police are warning Michigan State students to be careful because officers are getting called to more sexual assaults involving students.

We checked East Lansing Police logs and found officers responded to at least one sexual assault a week, in the month since students have been back. In all, the logs show officers were called to 7 sexual assaults since August 14. All of these are reported sexual assaults that detectives are investigating.

Officers say 7 in a month is high, since the department will often go months without having any sexual assaults reported.

According to police records those assaults are mainly happening at off campus homes and apartments. In one case police records show officers were called to a sexual assault at an MSU fraternity house, and in another case, a popular student bar.

"We do see an increase in sexual assaults as people come back to town," said East Lansing's Deputy Chief of Police Steve Gonzalez. "Our department has taken a pretty stiff stance against sexual assault and the way we investigate these cases."

Gonzalez tells News 10 it's gotten to the point where the East Lansing Police Department has one detective dedicated to investigating sexual assault cases.

"As the call load goes up if we need to add additional detectives for additional cases so that we can prioritize those, we will do so," he added.

Gonzalez says most cases involve students who knew their attacker and many times alcohol was a factor.

"Stay, together, look out for each other, at any point in time if there are any concerns of your safety or your friend's safety, call 911," Gonzalez said.

Even though the assaults are happening off campus, the university can get involved. Students have to report the incident to the Office of Institutional Equity which will then investigate the assault.

"If there is a continuing adverse effect on the campus community, if it is involving a member of our community, or if it occurs at an off-campus University sponsored program or activity, those are some of the types of incidents that MSU can investigate," explained MSU Director of Director Title IX and ADA Compliance & Education Programs, Jessica Norris.

Norris says the university makes sure students and staff get required online training. She says the university also has options for students who want help.

"They can receive confidential counseling, therapy and other advocacy assistance," Norris added.

East Lansing Police say this is only the tip of the iceberg, since many times students don't come forward.

"It's a constant effort to continue our educational processes with new students," Gonzalez said.

Officers say they're working with MSU police and administrators to do more outreach with students and hopefully prevent these assaults.