In this article
Sexual assault is pervasive across college campuses around the country. In fact, sexual violence is more prevalent on college campuses than any other crime.
College-aged women (18 to 24 years old) are twice as likely to be assaulted than robbed, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).
College women are at a heightened risk of sexual violence due to many systemic issues in society.
These issues include the following, but each of these items is nuanced:
While women are at a higher risk, both college women and college men alike are victims of sexual assault.
According to RAINN, 13 percent of all students are raped or experience some form of sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation in college.
Among undergraduate students, 26.4 percent of females and 6.8 percent of males experience rape or sexual assault.
Among graduate and professional students, 10 percent of women and 2.5 percent of males are assaulted on campus.
Meanwhile, 23.1 percent of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, and nonconforming) college students have also been sexually assaulted.
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is also common. About two-thirds of all victims know their perpetrator.
Students tend to be at a higher risk at certain times of the year. For example, more than half of college sexual assaults happen in August, September, October, or November. These times are consistent with the first few months of the first semesters in college.
These numbers are likely much higher, since not all rape or sexual assault cases are reported. Only 20 percent of female student victims, ages 18 to 24, report their cases to law enforcement professionals. This is because people often do not believe the victims’ stories. Rape victims also fear social penalization.
At least half of all sexual assaults that happen to college students are associated with alcohol use.
The study, “Alcohol-Related Sexual Assault: A Common Problem Among College Students” was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
About nine percent of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder (AUD), according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
According to the NIAAA, about 97,000 students ages 18 to 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
The prevalence of alcohol consumption on college campuses is high. In fact, according to the NIAAA, about 696,000 students ages 18 to 24 are assaulted in some way (not just sexually) by another student who has been drinking.
Unfortunately, when alcohol is involved, victims are wrongfully blamed for “being too drunk.” But the reality is that rape and sexual assault are no one’s fault but the perpetrator.
It’s also important to note that an incapacitated person cannot legally give consent. Incapacitation refers to a state beyond drunkenness.
If someone is incapacitated, they may have the following symptoms:
If a person is intoxicated but not incapacitated, they may be able to give consent — but not always. Consent depends on the person’s ability to make informed decisions.
These decisions must be made without pressure or coercion. They must be made with free will.
Alcohol-related sexual assault is a crime, just like non-alcohol-related sexual assault. Alcohol’s role in the assault does not change the fact that unwanted sexual acts are criminal offenses.
Alcohol-related sexual abuse and assault is problematic across all college campuses.
Rape culture refers to an environment where rape and sexual assault are normalized and excused.
It’s perpetuated through:
On college campuses, rape culture is partially a product of authority figures failing to punish perpetrators or to implement and enforce preventative policies. Many colleges sweep rapes and assaults under the rug to uphold their reputations.
Examples of rape culture include:
Victim-blaming refers to blaming the victim for how they were dressed, how much alcohol they drank, walking home alone at night, etc., wrongfully implying that they were “asking for it.”
Minimizing sexual assault refers to chalking up sexual assault to being “not that bad” because it wasn’t as bad as it "could" have been. (Disclaimer: All sexual assault is bad). It also refers to trivializing sexual assault with phrases like, “Boys will be boys!” and “They didn’t mean it like that; they’re a nice person” and “But I’ve never known them to be like that!” and “But they were just drunk.”
Publicly scrutinizing a victim’s motives and sexual history.
Defining manhood as sexually aggressive and womanhood as sexually passive.
Societal pressure for men to “score.”
Slut-shaming refers to shaming women for their sexual preferences or experiences, both consensual and non-consensual.
Teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to rape (or not having a collaborative conversation about criminalizing perpetrators).
The use of sexually explicit and degrading jokes that carry real implications.
Enabling and excusing friends’ and loved ones’ sexual harassment, violence, and assault.
Being passive bystanders to sexual harassment, violence, and assault.
Date rape drugs are rampant on college campuses. They can be slipped into a drink without the victim knowing.
They make the victim confused, unable to defend themselves against unwanted sexual contact, and sometimes unconscious. They can also wipe a victim’s memory.
Some common drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and prescription or over-the-counter drugs like antidepressants and antianxiety drugs can be used as date rape drugs.
Tranquilizers and sleeping aids are the most common types of date rape drugs.
A sexual offender may even offer a drug like marijuana, which the victim accepts. But they can lace it with other drugs to which the victim did not consent.
Almost 11 million women across the country have been raped while drunk, drugged, or high.
A predator can spike a victim’s drink with a date rape drug. These drugs can be anything. They may also use alcohol to spike a non-alcoholic drink.
The only difference between non-alcohol-involved and alcohol-involved sexual assault is the alcohol. In no situation is sexual assault acceptable.
By definition, sexual assault refers to “sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim,” according to RAINN. If a victim is incapacitated from drinking alcohol, they cannot give consent.
Whether or not there’s alcohol involved, sexual assault involves:
Often, with the effects of alcohol, victims of sexual assault become easier targets. Perpetrators may use sexual aggression and sexual coercion.
Sexual assault is not the only problem that arises among young people with underage alcohol abuse. Other risks of college alcohol abuse include, but are not limited to, the following:
While there are certain precautions you can take to help protect yourself from campus sexual assault, victim-blaming is wrong.
No incidence of rape or sexual assault is ever the victim’s fault. Rapists and sexual predators should be held accountable for their crimes.
You can take precautions like sticking in groups, keeping an eye on your drink, and learning self-defense. But rape and sexual assault can happen to anyone.
No matter what you wear or how much you have to drink, rape and sexual assault are never warranted. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.
Reporting sexual assault on college campuses may feel scary, especially at a college with a rape culture. But it’s important to report sexual assault on college campuses to prevent sexual victimization and violence against women from continuing.
Of course, reporting sexual assault is not always safe for victims. In fact, many sexually victimized students drop out of college. The dropout rate for these students is 34.1 percent, which is higher than the overall university dropout rate of 29.8 percent.
To help victims feel safe and heard, there are resources available:
If you or someone you know has been raped or sexually assaulted, reach out for help as soon as safely possible. You do not have to endure recovery alone.
In this article