Kansas University police say they hope a new policy of not releasing the names of rape and sodomy victims will make victims of such crimes less reluctant to report them to police.
"Sex offenses have an effect on the victim just because of the nature of the crime," said KU Police Lt. John Mullens. "One of the great fears of the victim in stepping forward is the publicity.
"It was felt that by not releasing the names and by people knowing that we might get a little better response from the victim."
The policy decision fits with a non-binding opinion that Kansas Atty. Gen. Bob Stephan issued this week that says police may withhold names in such cases.
However, Mullens said KU's policy change was not made because of Stephan's opinion.
HE SAID the KU Police Department has been revising its policy on records since the repeal of the federal Buckley amendment, which had prohibited university police and other university officials from releasing personal information about college students, even those who were involved in crimes.
The amendment was repealed in August by passage of the federal Student-Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act of 1992.
In revising police policies of releasing the names of students involved in crimes, Mullens said, KU police officials decided to withhold the names of victims who report felony sex crimes on police reports, including rape and sodomy.
KU Police Director Jim Denny said a victim's name would be released "only if the victim wants us to do so."
MULLENS SAID the policy had not been applied until Thursday, when an 18-year-old student reported she was attacked by an unknown assailant near a basketball court behind Ellsworth Hall.
The student told police a man stopped her and asked her for directions, then attempted to remove her clothing.
The Lawrence Police Department is not changing its policy of releasing the names of rape victims, Chief Ron Olin said. He said he thought local media had exercised good judgment in handling the identity of rape victims.
However, Mullens said, "Not every news group that might ask us to release that information to would be . . . responsible."
Mullens said the policy, for now, only would apply to felony crimes such as rape and sodomy.
Police haven't decided if the names of victims in misdemeanor sex crimes would be released.
Denney said police will decide whether to release the victim's name "on a case-by-case basis" in those reports.
"I'm not sure whether you can make a blanket policy" for midemeanor sex crimes he said.
"I'm a strong believer in victims' rights," he said. "If the victim is traumatized, I don't want to contribute to that."