Elon University has seen an increase in reported rapes in the last three years, according to the 2023 fire and safety report. The report details crimes reported in 2022, which includes 17 cases of rape, seven more than the year prior and 15 more than 2020. 

All 17 cases were in residential facilities, which the university defines as dormitories and other on-campus housing. 

Elon University Chief of Police Joe LeMire said the large jump from 2020 to 2022 can be partially attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“There was a lot of universities, including us, that had sent people home, and then they came back to campus, but it was kind of modified as to what we were doing,” LeMire said. “So there were some lower numbers, and you're gonna see a general increase when we go back to normal operations.”

The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill also followed this pattern, with 18 rape cases reports in residential facilities in 2022, compared to 15 in 2021 and 7 in 2020. North Carolina State University, Raleigh saw 13 reported residential facilities rape cases in 2022, 5 in 2021 and 4 in 2020.

LeMire said the jump can also be attributed to an increase in people making reports, not an increase in the crime itself, which is connected to the change in how the university deals with sexual violence. 

“The bad part would be in the past if those things were happening, but nobody reported that and they kept it to themselves,” LeMire said. “The big thing in the background is getting people taken care of: do they get the resources they need, and do they get the counseling they need and do they get all that stuff that they deserve?”

Latisha Perry, interim Title IX coordinator and compliance manager, said she agrees that the increase in number is due to reports and awareness on campus. 

“It is important to consider a few factors when thinking about raw data. First, generally speaking, receiving reports is a positive,” Perry wrote in an email to Elon News Network. “Over the past few years, our office and campus partners have worked to further raise awareness in our community about what sexual harassment is and have dedicated time and resources to training and educating students, faculty, and staff about sexual misconduct.”

Campus Safety and Police has developed a sensitive crimes unit and works closely with the Gender and LGBTQIA Center for sexual violence prevention, including an online education program, HealthEU skits and peer education workshops.

“We're really focusing on how we deal with trauma-informed interviewing and things like that campus has victim advocacy or confidential advocacy,” LeMire said. “We've really built up our infrastructure of how we deal with that type of crime and that type of incident. And when you do that, and you build up a lot of trust with the community, you get people to come forward that in the past hadn't come forward.”

Perry also said the training the Title IX employees receive is also vital to building trust in the community. 

“Part of the goal in doing so is help community members identify conduct that might constitute sexual misconduct and to report it to our office,” Perry wrote. “We are unable to respond to alleged misconduct if we are not told about it. We are encouraged that we have received these reports because that has given us the opportunity to respond.”

Prevention is one of the most helpful ways to limit sexual violence on campus, according to outreach advocate for the Rape Recovery Center, Maribel Garcia. 

As an outreach advocate for the RRC, Garcia helps spread awareness on sexual violence and the resources the center provides. 

Through the RRC focuses on cases in Utah, Garcia said there are important measures colleges can take to eliminate sexual violence on campus, including working with and educating greek life.

“To raise awareness to those groups, we went to where they are. We're trying to be flexible with our timing to reach them in spaces where they are where they're holding their events already just to kind of raise that awareness,” Garcia said. 

The North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault recommends promoting social norms that reduce sexual violence, teaching skills to prevent sexual violence, providing opportunities to empower and support girls and women, and creating protective environments to reduce sexual violence, according to its prevention plan

Students can report instances of sexual violence using the Title IX Sexual Misconduct Reporting Form or other ways found in the 2023-2024 Student Handbook.

LeMire encourages people to come forward to the university about the sexual violence they experience.

“We don't want anything to happen. We certainly want zeros, but we also know that it does happen,” LeMire said. “We want those people that come forward so we can use all the help and resources that they deserve and let them make decisions.”