Two recent reported incidents of rape on or near the Harvard campus already left students unsettled as they returned to school for the start of the fall semester. An annual report sent out by the administration this week, however, entailed even more alarming statistics.

Between 2008 and 2010, about four rapes were annually reported to the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD), according to the Harvard Crimson. What’s worse, the number of rapes on campus were much higher — an average 15 per year.

The larger number represented the formal assaults reported to the HUPD, as well as the confidential reports made to the University Health Services and the Office of Sexual Assault and Prevention.

Students have expressed concern over the statistic.

One student told the Harvard Crimson, “When I thought it was just four assaults, I was scared. Even four is too many.” Others have said “they suspect the number of rapes on campus each year may be higher than 15, but that victims of assault may be hesitant to come forward.”

A report from the National Institute of Justice claims “sexual assault is widely considered to be the most under-reported violent crime in America.”

More than 35 percent of reported victims admitted they didn’t inform the police of an incident because they weren’t sure whether a crime was committed or that harm was intended. The report also states “just under three percent of all college women become victims of rape (either completed or attempted) in a given nine- month academic year.”

Harvard students have suggested extending service hours for the campus shuttle, the evening van and the Harvard University Campus Escort Program, despite heightened security.

The dangers of living and working on a largely open campus located in a densely populated area are real. Although alarming, hopefully these statistics will force Harvard’s students to be more cautious when walking through campus and Cambridge at large.

Photo Courtesy of Duncan McDougal