BOSTON (AP) -- Reports of sexual assault on Boston-area college campuses have risen sharply over the past several years, according to a newspaper's review of federal statistics.

Reports of "forcible sex offenses" rose by nearly 40 percent between 2008 and 2012 across 22 of the largest campuses in the region, and 113 sexual assaults were reported at the college in 2012, the highest in a decade. The numbers were based on a Boston Globe (http://b.globe.com/1aVWvne ) review of federal statistics supplied by colleges as required under the Clery Act.

More sexual assault reports don't necessarily mean a college campus is dangerous, said Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center for Security On Campus, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that trains colleges and universities to comply with the law.

"We constantly tell parents and students that higher sexual assault numbers aren't necessarily a bad thing," she said. "It often means students know where to go to report and that they're comfortable doing so."

Campus experts say the rise in reporting of sexual assaults suggests that colleges are improving efforts to address the problem by expanding education and outreach and by more thoroughly reporting such assaults.

"When we see sexual assault numbers increase, that hopefully means the barriers to reporting are finally beginning to be addressed, which means you are beginning the steps to solve the problem," said S. Daniel Carter, director of the 32 National Campus Safety Initiative, a project backed by families and survivors of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings.


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Still, an estimated 88 percent of victims do not formally report sexual assaults, according to a federal study.

The Clery Act reports cover allegations of crimes that occurred on campus, including dorms and other public property; at property owned by but separated from the main campus; and fraternities and sororities. They exclude other off-campus housing.

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Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.bostonglobe.com