Thirty registered sex offenders live within a two-mile radius of Georgia College’s campus, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Sex Offender Registry.
When looking at this statistic, Carrie Cook, associate professor of criminal justice, government and sociology, urged caution, saying that the situation is complex and the justice system has blurred the lines between various sexual offenses.
“In general, sex offenders have been the target of recent punitive criminal justice policies in the last several decades,” Cook said. “The criminal justice system has lumped all sex offenders into one category, such that we are unable to determine if a convicted sex offender has violated statutory rape laws or has committed heinous sex crimes against children.”
Cook said that not every crime labeled as a sexual offense is the same and that sometimes, external sources can generate a sense of what she called “moral panic.”
“In sum, it is not useful to aggregate all sex offenders into one category, and it is also critical to keep in mind that
often the media and politicians can make the public more fearful of a particular type of crime or offender,” Cook said.
Melissa Gerrior, program coordinator for the Women’s Center and LGBTQ+ Center, appeared shocked to hear how many sex offenders live close to campus but quickly emphasized that students and faculty have resources on campus to deflect cases of assault.
“What many people don’t know or neglect to see is that 90% of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows,” Gerrior said. “Therefore we have trainings on campus to enforce bystander awareness.”
Gerrior defined bystander awareness as an effort to put responsibility on everyone in the GC community to help prevent sexual violence and break away from the age-old “stranger danger” ideology surrounding sexual offense.
The reports of 2014 and 2015 had four sexual assaults each, while 2016 saw that number cut by half, with a total of two sexual assaults.
“These [statistics] represent crimes that were merely reported and [do not] represent convictions,” said Michael Baker, sergeant of support services with GC Public Safety. “And all the reported rapes are non-stranger rapes, meaning the victim was acquainted with the offender.”
Sexual assault on campus is measured through the Annual Security Report, a resource which gives the statistics on all crimes that occur on campus. Students, faculty and staff can locate this information on GC’s Public Safety page under “Campus Crime Information.”