Rape on Campus
5 months ago
One in five female students has been sexually assaulted
For most students, college is a dream, full of promise, ripe with new experiences for academic and social growth. But for too many women enrolled in undergraduate school, college ends up being a waking nightmare. One in five female students experience either attempted or completed sexual assault during their tenure, according to a study in the Journal of American College Health, making rape the most common violent crime on college campuses nationwide (6 percent of men are assaulted). Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) may be a bastion of opportunity for black women, but nearly one in seven have reported assault there, too.
Beyond campus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that women are four times more likely to be violated between the ages of 18 and 24 than at any other time. And while 17.7 percent of all white women experience some type of sexual assault in their lifetime, that rate is 18.8 percent for black women, and 24.4 percent for those who identify as mixed race.
But these numbers don’t tell the whole story—the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that just 27 percent of all rapes were reported last year. On college campuses, that report rate drops to a mere 5 percent.
There seems to be a perfect storm of issues that make students especially vulnerable to sexual assault during their college years. “College campuses can foster a false sense of security. Rapists look to exploit vulnerabilities that can arise in these environments, as students let their guards down in social situations. The majority of these assaults are committed by someone known to the victim,” says Katherine Hull, spokesperson for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
That’s the case at least 80 percent of the time, whether they are currently in an intimate relationship or casual acquaintances. Women (and men) are less likely to report assault when it’s at the hands of someone they know for many reasons, including fear of retaliation, concern that the school won’t help them, uncertainty as to whether it was rape, worry that they won’t be believed, and feelings of guilt and shame.
[ALSO READ: Republicans and Their Obsession with Rape]
Alcohol and drug consumption are also tied to an increased risk of assault. Nine out of 10 campus cases involve alcohol, according to the Center for Problem Oriented Policing, with both offenders and victims imbibing before the attack. Drinking is associated with heightened aggression, misreading of cues, and a decreased ability to protect oneself.
The job of protecting students naturally falls to the universities where the assaults are happening. But recent high-profile cases, like one at Amherst College that resulted in suicide, have left some wondering if they are doing enough. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s (NIAAA) research shows that nearly half of all college students ages 18 to 24 have five or more drinks in one sitting at least once a month. Yet six years after NIAAA issued evidence-based recommendations to colleges to reduce student drinking, a follow-up study found that only 3 percent of colleges had implemented all of them (just 39 percent had executed some of them). The National Institute of Justice found that only 40 percent of schools offer sexual violence prevention programs, and less than one-third of those programs include information on reducing acquaintance rape, despite the fact that it is the most common type.