What conclusions can one draw from 5 years of sexual-assault data?

Coming forward more. (x376 via Flickr)

Today’s Star Tribune reports that sexual assaults reported at Minnesota colleges went up 23 percent from 2008 to 2012, and reports at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities rose 31 percent.

The bar charts included the print version of the newspaper, however, show a picture that’s more complicated than the one portrayed in the article.

Let’s look at two areas:

1) Statewide.

Minnesota campuses did see an initial spike in the total number of sexual-assault reports — from 115 in 2008 to 144 in 2009.

(That’s according the numbers themselves. The bars in the graphic do not follow the numbers, and so may have been misprinted.)

But after first year’s increase, the numbers appear fairly stable.

One may wonder whether the 2008 figure itself was an anomaly, and so not a proper baseline for measurement.

2) The U’s Twin Cities campus.

There the number of reported sexual assaults rose gradually from 2008 (26) to 2012 (34).

But 2011 saw a one-time dip to 26.

One may think that’s an exception to the trend. But with such a limited number of years to compare, it’s probably hard to draw firm conclusions about patterns in sexual-assault reports.

Read the full story here.