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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.4 They are also at a heightened risk of sexual violence due to the influence of many systemic issues. These include the following:
While women are at a higher risk, both college men and women can be victims of sexual assault.
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Here are some statistics about alcohol-related sexual assault in college:
Students are at a higher risk at certain times of the year. For example, more than half of college sexual assaults happen from August to November.4 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.1 The prevalence of alcohol consumption on college campuses is high. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):
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’s.
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:
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 are problematic across all college campuses. They can happen due to the following reasons:
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:
This refers to blaming the victim for how they were dressed, how much alcohol they drank, walking home alone at night, etc. It wrongfully implies that the victim was “asking for it.”
This refers to chalking up the sexual assault as being “not that bad” because it wasn’t as bad as it "could" have been. All sexual assault is bad.
It also refers to trivializing sexual assault with phrases like:
This includes asking questions such as, “Why was she wearing that?” and “What did she do before this happened?”
It can also include slut-shaming, when you criticize women for their sexual preferences or experiences, both consensual and non-consensual.
This means that if a man doesn't have sex, he's seen as less of a man than someone who does. This pressure can come from:
Sometimes, people define manhood as sexually aggressive and womanhood as sexually passive.
Rather than teaching men not to rape, many teach women not to wear certain clothes, walk in certain areas, or drink too much. This can also include not having a collaborative conversation about criminalizing perpetrators.
Being passive bystanders to sexual harassment, violence, and assault is part of rape culture. It also includes the use of sexually explicit and degrading jokes that carry real implications.
Date rape drugs are rampant on college campuses. Assaulters can slip them into a drink without the victim knowing.
They confuse the victim, unable to defend themselves against unwanted sexual contact. They can render them unconscious and wipe a victim’s memory.
Drugs that can be used as date rape drugs include:
Sometimes, a victim may accept a drug. But the sexual offender can lace it with other substances to which the victim did not consent. Almost 11 million women across the country have been raped when drunk, drugged, or high.
College parties often lead to students feeling pressured to engage in risky behaviors. During these events, students are pressured to drink more even if they don't want to. Heavy drinking can increase the risk of sexual assault.
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. 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. 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, resources are available:
If you need immediate emergency attention, call 911. They will connect you to campus police and medical services.
Go somewhere as safe as possible, if you can. When you get there, do not:
Understandably, you may want to cleanse yourself. However, it’s essential not to wash away the evidence.
Having someone who has your best interest in mind can help you heal. They can also help you navigate the reporting process, which can feel invasive and triggering.
Make sure you report the case to campus security and the police. This will help you receive support and resources. It can also increase security measures at your school.
Make sure you tell the doctor that you want to receive medical attention for a crime. You can choose to have a sexual assault forensic exam.
You do not have to do anything you don’t want to do. If you feel uncomfortable, you can quit the reporting process anytime. Also, note that there is no limitation on when you can report a crime to the police. It’s never too late.
Support groups are available for victims of rape and sexual assault. Here are some resources to learn more or report a case:
If you or someone you know has been raped or sexually assaulted, reach out for help as soon as possible. You do not have to endure recovery alone.
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