Brittany Piper

Brittany Piper, sexual assault prevention activist, speaks to a crowd of students in the Gluck Theater on Sep. 29, 2021.

Last year, WVU saw a dramatic drop in reported sexual violence, as shown in the University’s latest Clery Report.

University Police Interim Chief, Phil Scott, said this is likely due to less students being on campus.

“This reporting cycle brought with it some anomalies largely due to the number of students who were not attending in-person classes. As we all know, it was a different kind of year and some of the areas with increases may reflect that,” Scott said.

There was also the absence of larger events like FallFest and FoodFest, which often drive an increase in campus crime.

Domestic violence saw the most significant decline — the lowest it’s been in over seven years. These cases saw a 70% decrease from 2019 to 2020.

Reported rape cases also saw a downward trend, dropping from 13 to nine in 2020. The previous year saw the highest numbers of rape and fondling cases since before 2014.

There were no reported incidents of dating violence for the last two years. Historically, these numbers have been fairly low compared to other reported sex crimes.

Though cases of sexual violence were at a low during the pandemic year, stalking numbers continued an upward trend.

Stalking saw a 56% increase during 2020, jumping from nine to 14 reported cases in that year.

It’s important to note WVU’s annual Clery Report doesn’t fully represent sexual violence on campus, as many cases go unreported.

The annual report pulls data from University Police and other local agencies, including Morgantown police and fire departments.

In 2019, WVU's classification of sexual assault changed in accordance with the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, according to April Kaull, University spokesperson. 

The University Clery Report had previously only categorized two types of sexual assault — forcible and non-forcible. Now, rape and fondling are recognized as two distinct categories of sexual assault.

Non-forcible sexual offenses were expanded into categories including statutory rape and incest.

As part of Homecoming Week at WVU, many students and organizations on campus are speaking out about sexual violence.

WVU Greek Life sponsored a self care for survivors seminar Wednesday with guest speaker Brittany Piper, a survivor of sexual assault.

Piper shared her story and the trauma she’s lived for the past decade with a room full of students.

“[People] talked about how strong, how brave, how composed I was. They refer to me a survivor who refused to be broken,” Piper said about her experiences after her rapist’s sentencing. “But what people didn’t know is that point in my life, I was at the lowest point in my life.”

It took two years for Piper’s rapist to be sentenced to life in prison.

She followed her story with advice to survivors on how to cope with their trauma when surrounded by triggers like rape culture.

“That’s what trauma does to us. It leaves an imprint, a legacy,” Piper said. “And it’s not about pretending it’s not there. It’s more about coexisting with it and loving ourselves through that process.”

Katie Moore, assistant director for the Center for Fraternal Values and Leadership, said this was the first sexual assault prevention event held during Homecoming in recent years.

She added the event was made possible by the Big 12 Sexual Assault Prevention grant.

This weekend at the Texas Tech game, Student Government Association will hold a sexual assault prevention tailgate for students.

Next month, the Women’s Resource Center will be holding a “Silent Witness Exhibit” from Oct. 5-12 to honor people murdered by acts of domestic violence.