For what may be the first time, Yale Police Department Chief James Perrotti brought an alleged rape to the attention of the University community in a campus-wide e-mail.
In a Community Alert e-mail sent on Friday evening, Perrotti said University officials had recently been informed of an “off-campus acquaintance rape,” though no formal criminal complaint has been filed. Acquaintance rape — which accounts for approximately 84 percent of all rapes — is when the complainant and the offender already know each other, though the offender could be the victim’s boyfriend or someone the victim met earlier that night.
Students involved in advocacy on sexual assault said they were pleased to see Perrotti following federal requirements and raising awareness about an often under-reported crime. But others doubted the value of such e-mails, which they said are often ignored.
Stacey Fitzgerald ’09, coordinator of Rape and Sexual Violence Prevention, said she was surprised to see the e-mail and was glad it mentioned campus resources for rape survivors. At RSVP’s first meeting of the semester, she said, the group had talked about asking Perrotti to send out e-mails when rapes occur, but had not yet done so when the e-mail was sent.
“We started talking about Chief Perrotti e-mails and how at least in my memory, I had never seen an e-mail from him about rape,” Fitzgerald said. “So we were actually about to ask about that, when he sent it out.”
She and other members of RSVP said the e-mail is an important step towards ensuring accurate reporting of rapes on campus, in accordance with the 1990 Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act. The law requires colleges to issue campus-wide “timely warnings” about certain crimes and keep accurate statistics of campus crimes.
According to the statistics reported, Yale had 11 forcible sex offences on campus, zero non-campus forcible sex offences and one forcible sex offence on public property in 2005, the last year for which statistics are available.
But Fitzgerald said that according to the Department of Justice, a campus of Yale’s size is generally estimated to have about 90 sex offences annually, based on its student population.
Fitzgerald said the Sexual Harassment and Assault Resource and Education Center was created last year partly to help ensure more consistent reporting of sexual offences. Perrotti may have sent the e-mail for a similar reason, she said.
Former RSVP co-coordinator Allyson Goldberg ’08 said Perrotti should continue to send out alerts about rape because rape is a felony and students should be aware of its presence on campus. She said she found Perrotti’s e-mail comprehensive.
“I think it’s important that rapes are included with robberies and thefts because rape happens here, and it’s important to make it less taboo than it has been at Yale,” she said. “I’d like to see [Perrotti] treat rape in the same way as any other crime on campus.”
Some other students who read Perrotti’s e-mail agreed that reporting rapes to the Yale community is an efficient way to educate people about the crime. They also praised the message for identifying resources that are available to sexual assault victims. Dorota Poplawska ’09 said she wouldn’t be sure where to turn first if she were the victim of a sex crime.
“I think it’s good [to send out the e-mails] because if you’re more aware, you’re going to be more careful,” Poplawska said. “I seriously don’t think there’s enough awareness about rape on this campus.”
But other students said they had not even read the e-mail, or if they had, that they had not paid very much attention to it.
Kevin Collins ’09, for example, said he usually deletes Perrotti’s e-mails without reading them. And Jake Garza ’09 said he does not generally find the e-mails helpful.
“I don’t usually read what [Perrotti] writes,” Garza said. “I guess I don’t feel like I’m really in that much danger … what’s going to happen is going to happen.”
University officials said they were not familiar with details about the rape incident. Perrotti was not available for comment.