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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Taking a look at the data: UF’s sexual assault cases over the past five years

UF residential halls covered a quarter of the cases

For the last two years, Dayanita Kumar lived at UF’s Keys Residential Complex — however, she never knew about the three sexual assaults that took place there in the last five years.

Like many students, she wasn’t aware that about a quarter of all reported rape and sexual assault cases in the past few years have happened at UF residential halls. 

“Had I known more about the assaults occurring in the dorms, honestly, I would have felt less safe,” she said. 

At UF and surrounding campus areas, rape and sexual assault has fluctuated throughout the years. There have been 67 reported cases of rape and sexual assault on UF campus and six for the surrounding campus areas in the past five years, according to data from the UF Crime Map. 

21 of the 31 residential halls have reported rape and sexual assault cases, with Jennings and Keys making up 9% of all the cases.

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Jennings Hall had the most reported sexual assault cases over the past five years with four reports, while the Keys Residential Complex follows with three reported cases. Fourteen percent of sexual assault and rape cases happened at unknown locations. 

Although the University Police Department hasn’t increased patrols specifically around UF’s residential halls, it has increased its patrol presence several times throughout the year, including game day events and the beginning of the semester, UPD spokesperson Captain Latrell Simmons said. At the beginning of the Fall semester, an increased police presence helped new students get acquainted with campus.

Nelly Liang, a 22-year-old UF architecture senior, said she has heard stories of sexual assault on campus all the time. 

“I think this is a huge issue on campus,” Liang said. “It happens so often that it becomes the norm almost.”

Perpetrators of sexual assaults know the victim in 8 out of 10 cases, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. 

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Outside of residential halls, sexual assaults have been reported at fraternities Delta Tau Delta, Zeta Beta Tau, Pi Kappa Phi and Pi Lambda Phi houses within the past five years, while one case occurred at the sorority Zeta Tau Alpha house. 

More than 90% of sexual assault cases go unreported on college campuses, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted in college. Nationally, two-thirds of sexual assault cases aren’t reported to the police.

There have been 13 reported sexual assaults on or near UF’s campus within the past year. 

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UF resident assistant Parker Siegel was arrested and charged on July 8 with sexual battery of a victim between 12 and 18 years old. The crime allegedly took place in the 19-year-old’s room in Mallory Hall, where he held the victim down and raped her. 

Mallory Hall has had two rape and sexual assault cases within the past five years, including the Siegel case. A trial date hasn’t been set for Siegel’s case, but he and his attorney, Spencer Siegel, submitted a motion to dismiss the case on July 11. 

In January, Akhil Kancherla was arrested for sexual battery after the victim told police he didn’t stop for several minutes after he was asked to. 

He was a member of Phi Delta Theta. The fraternity suspended him indefinitely after the charges were filed. 

The charges were later dropped, but Kancherla has petitioned to get the charges expunged from his record. There is a hearing set for Sept. 27, according to the hearing notice.

Santa Fe College also had a student accused of sexual assault within the past five years. 

Oscar Vargas, a then 19-year-old SFC student, was arrested Dec. 7, 2021, after admitting to police that he sexually assaulted a woman. His trial is set for Oct. 16. 

Stadium Road is the street on campus with the most sexual assaults, with four cases. Fletcher Drive follows with three. 

UPD provides Self-Defense Awareness and Familiarization Exchange classes to students who want to learn how to defend themselves. The two-hour course is geared toward adult and teenage women and features an introduction video and a physical self-defense presentation. 

Kumar participated in the self-defense classes during her freshman year, she said.

“It was a pretty good experience,” she said. “I learned some new self-defense tips and strategies in case of an emergency.” 

UPD also provides a Personal Safety class, sometimes referred to as ‘Rape Prevention,’ in order to discuss topics of personal violence. 

The UF Counseling and Wellness Center provides a Sexual Assault Survivor Support group that meets from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. Short-term individual counseling is also offered. 

Zachary Carnell contributed to this report.

Contact Jordan Ramos at Follow him on Twitter @JordanR68971799.

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Jordan Ramos

Jordan Ramos is a fourth-year journalism major who spends his time singing in two different choirs and his a cappella group.

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