Sexual Assault on College Campuses
“Sexual assault is a serious problem on college campuses, and it is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward. It saddens us to think that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings.” – Will Dana, Managing Editor of Rolling Stone
When Rolling Stone magazine, in the wake of withering criticism from Columbia School of Journalism, retracted its story on an alleged rape at the University of Virginia, it was seen as a serious blow against an already disproportionately vulnerable group: college survivors of sexual assault.
- 34 percent of completed rapes and 45 percent of attempted rapes take place on campus.
- 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while they are college students.
- In 90 percent of the reported cases of sexual assault on college campuses, the victim knew her or his attacker.
- 2 in 3 acts of sexual assault involving college students are by repeat abusers, with the average perpetrator committing six assaults during their time in college.
- 4 in 10 LGBT college students have been forced to have sex against their will, twice the rate of heterosexual college students.
High-profile media events such as the Rolling Stone retraction reinforce one of the greatest obstacles for sexual assault survivors: The widely held belief that survivors are often lying. Although the rate of occurrence of false rape allegations hovers near non-existent—it gets pegged at between 2 and 8 percent—the ugly stereotype of the hysterical, unreliable rape victim persists.
The desire of survivors to avoid this stigma contributes centrally to their overwhelming reluctance to report assaults. And if the national statistics on this point are horrifying—2 of 3 cases of sexual assault in the U.S. go unreported—the campus statistics are even worse: 19 in 20 sexual assaults on college campuses go unreported. Another sobering illustration of just how deep the assault-victim stigma runs can be seen in the fact that of all college students who have had experiences that meet the definition of sexual assault, only 2 in 3 will identify themselves as victims of sexual assault.
Sexual assault is a national issue, but it’s clearly an issue that’s taken on a particular urgency on college campuses. We need to work toward creating campus environments where sexual abusers are neither tolerated nor entitled, and where assault survivors feel supported and can speak openly. Join Chicago Says No More in speaking out against the victimization of college students.
- Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault
- Rape Victim Advocates