Three sexual assaults were reported at Utah State University on Friday, the day of its Halloween party, the Howl, according to an alert sent out to the campus community Saturday morning.
Two of the reports were groping incidents and one was a reported rape, according to USU Spokesman Tim Vitale. The reports are under investigation, Vitale said, and at this point it's not certain whether they happened at the Howl itself, only that they reportedly happened on Friday.
The Howl is USU's largest annual event, drawing students from other schools and non-students — the event only requires attendees be over 18. More than 40 police officers were on campus Friday night as more than 6,000 attendees participated, according to Vitale. The event involves dancing and other activities in the Taggart Student Center and Fieldhouse.
After the Howl last year, the Code Blue system was used to alert the campus community of a rape that reportedly occurred near the bottom of Old Main Hill on the night of the event. More recently, a "Timely Warning Notice" system has been notifying the campus community via text message and email of reported sexual assaults, including the alerts sent Saturday. In addition to the increased police presence, Vitale said more than 140 student volunteers with "upstander" training were at the event to intervene in potentially dangerous situations.
The university has increased its efforts to combat sexual assault in recent years as multiple incidents gained wide exposure, including former Aggie football player Torrey Green being convicted of raping several women during his time at USU, as well as accusations of sexual assault, harassment and an abusive academic environment in the school's piano program. Training to educate people on sexual assault has increased, Title IX officials have been shuffled, and posters about the importance of consent are ubiquitous on campus.
In advance of the Howl, those posters included one with the slogan "costume is not consent" and "no groping or grinding without consent." The posters and a banner were visible at the event, according to Vitale.
The three sexual assaults included in the alert Saturday morning only represent the earliest reports of such incidents at the event. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, only about 1 in 4 sexual assaults are ever reported to police, and those that are reported are often delayed, as victims can face fear of retaliation, doubt that they'll find help via official channels, among several other reasons.
Due to the underreported nature of sexual assaults and other factors, without more information it's impossible to say whether Saturday's reported assaults reflect trends like a rise in actual incidents or more students understanding the reporting process.
USU offers resources to sexual assault victims and accepts reports both through its Title IX office and the USU Police Department. For more information, visit www.sexualassault.usu.edu.
The USU Police Department is asking people information about the incidents to call the department at (435)797-1939 or visit its office at 800 E. 1250 North in Logan.