Campus administrators have an obligation to make their campuses a safe place for all students, and many efforts have been undertaken to promote campus safety. Research suggests, however, that sexual victimization (which includes sexual assault and stalking) remains a problem on many campuses. According to a December 2000 report entitled “The Sexual Victimization of College Women” by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) at the U.S. Department of Justice, a college with 10,000 students could experience as many as 350 rapes per year. Research also shows that much more can be done to effectively reduce the risks of sexual victimization on college campuses.
Sexual violence is a common occurrence on college campuses.
- According to the 2008 National Crime Victimization Survey, as reported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 75% of the women who reported a rape were under 25 years old at the time of their assault; more than 25% of the victims of reported rapes are between 18 and 24 years old.
- The December 2000 National Institute of Justice report states that over the course of a college career (which now lasts five years on average), the percentage of completed or attempted rape victimization among women in higher educational institutions might climb to between 20% and 25%.
- The Justice Department estimates that fewer than 5% of completed and attempted rapes of college women are reported to law enforcement officials. This is far below the rate of the general population, where about 40% of all sexual attacks are reported to police.
- The NIJ report also asserts that in 80-90% of cases, victim and assailant know each other; and the more intimate the relationship, the more likely it is for a rape to be completed.
- Stalking is another form of victimization common to college women. The NIJ report estimates that 13% of college women are victims of a stalking incident at least once during their college years. A Justice Department report suggests that just 17% of college women who were stalked reported it to police.
The Jeanne Clery Act
The Jeanne Clery Act, also known as the "Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act," requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to publicly disclose statistics about on-campus crime. Congress also annually appropriates funds for the Violence Against Women Campus Program, which enables the Office on Violence Against Women to extend grants to schools to combat on-campus violence against women.
Common Trouble Spots on College Campuses
- Lack of a Sexual Assault Response Policy
- A comprehensive sexual assault response policy is the centerpiece of any school’s efforts to prevent and respond to sexual assault. Many of the almost 2,500 schools included in a December 2005 study by the National Institute of Justice either do not have a sexual assault response policy or could not find it for the study. Additionally, of the schools that actually do have sexual assault response policies, only about half spell out specific policy goals (e.g. not tolerating sexual offenses on campus or pursuing disciplinary action against perpetrators).
- Inadequate Sexual Assault Training and Response
- Only about 40% of the schools surveyed in the study offer any sexual assault training, and what training is available is usually reserved for resident advisers and student security officers – not the general student population.
- Fewer than 40% of the schools in the study train campus security personnel to respond to sexual assault, even though formal complaints are likely to be reported to campus security.
- Only about one-fourth of schools in the study provide residence hall staff with safety training or have security staff on duty in the residences.
- While some schools in the survey do offer safety-related educational programs that address sexual assault, less than one-third of these schools include acquaintance rape prevention in their programs.
- Underreporting of Campus Crime Statistics
- Only about one-third of schools are fully compliant with the federal Clery Act, which requires schools to report on-campus crime statistics to federal education officials.
Campus Sexual Assault Victims' Bill of Rights
As a student at a college or university, you have basic rights when it comes to being the victim of a sexual assault on campus. The United States Congress enacted this Bill of Rights in 1992. Therefore, all colleges and universities participating in federal student aid programs are required to afford sexual assault victims certain basic rights.
- Accuser and accused must have the same opportunity to have others present.
- Both parties shall be informed of the outcome of any disciplinary proceeding.
- Survivors shall be informed of their options to notify law enforcement.
- Survivors shall be notified of counseling services.
- Survivors shall be notified of options for changing academic and living situations.
How You Can Help
- Get involved in RAINN Day and help organize activities on college campuses to raise awareness of on-campus sexual violence.
- Visit the website of Security on Campus, Inc. to find up-to-date campus safety news and information about what is being done on a national level to make college campuses a safer place for students.
What You Can Do To Reduce Your Risk on Campus
In 80-90% of cases, victim and assailant know each other.
- Be aware of the frequency of acquaintance rape. The December 2000 report by the NIJ notes that 35.5% of completed rapes (and 43.5% of attempted rapes) are committed by a classmate, while 34.2% of completed rapes (and 24.2% of attempted rapes) are committed by a friend.
- If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot make it home for the night, be sure you are in a safe and secure environment. The NIJ report found that almost 60% of completed rapes that occur on campus take place in the victim’s residence while 31% take place in other living quarters on campus and 10.3% take place in a fraternity.
- Take self-defense classes. Many colleges and universities offer these classes through their fitness facilities and can be taken for credit. Even if college credit cannot be gained from the course, the training received will be invaluable.
- Read RAINN's tips on how to reduce your risk if someone is pressuring you.
- Read RAINN's tips on how to reduce your risk in a social situation.
Stranger rape, though less common, can still occur on or around college campuses. Here are some ways to reduce your risk:
- Know the location of emergency telephones around campus. Many campuses use a blue light to make them conspicuous at a distance, especially at night.
- Read RAINN's tips on how to reduce your risk by avoiding dangerous situations.
The December 2005 NIJ report lists some “promising practices” that eight schools have already adopted to prevent and manage sexual assault. Among these “promising practices” are the following:
- The school has a campus sexual assault prevention program which includes:
- Comprehensive education about rape myths
- Common circumstances under which the crime occurs
- Prevention strategies
- Rape trauma responses and the healing process
- The school has a clearly defined sexual assault policy which
- Defines all forms of sexual misconduct
- Describes circumstances in which sexual assault most commonly occurs
- Advises what to do if the student is sexually assaulted
- Lists resources available on campus and in the local community
- Provides for and lists available reporting options
- States the school’s sanctions for violating sexual misconduct policy
- Provides an official statement noting the separate actions available to the victim
For more information and details about these practices, read the December 2005 NIJ report, “Sexual Assault on Campus: What Colleges and Universities Are Doing About It.”
Below are other resources you may find helpful:
- Campus Security information, U.S. Department of Education
- Clery Act information, SecurityOnCampus.org
- Statistics Report Index, Office of Postsecondary Education, U.S. Department of Education
- Campus Sexual Assault: How America's Institutions Of Higher Education Respond, U.S. Department of Justice, August 2002
- Campus Safety Connection Newsletter- crime on campuses across the country, legislative updates, and latest activities of Security On Campus, SecurityOnCampus.org
- The Sexual Victimization of College Women, U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute for Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2000
- Reported Crime on Campus, Reader’s Digest Rankings, data from 2004-2005