Among Young Women, Non-Students More Likely to be Victimized Than Students

Bar graph. Rape or sexual assault victimizations against females ages 18 to 24 reported to police, by post-secondary enrollment status, 1995-2013. 20% of students reported rape or sexual assault, while just over 30% of non-students reported rape or sexual assault.

A new Justice Department report concludes that, among women age 18-24, those not attending college are about 20% more likely to be sexually assaulted than college students.

The study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), which analyzes almost two decades of data from the National Crime Victimization Survey, examines sexual violence among college-age adults and compares the risks and outcomes for students to those for non-students. Out of every 1,000 female students age 18-24, 6.1 were sexually assaulted each year. For non-students, the rate was 7.6 per 1,000.

Regardless of student status, BJS found that the risk of sexual assault was significantly higher for 18-24 year-olds than for other Americans. Female college students in that age range are about five times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the population at large, while non-students are about six times more likely. In other words, young women, no matter the setting or level of education, are most at risk, the study found.

For males 18-24, the risk was higher among college students: men made up 17% of all college student victims, and about 4% of non-student victims.

“The Justice Department study shows that all 18- to 24-year-olds are at significant risk of sexual assault, whether they are in college or not. That underscores that we need to ensure that victim support services are available for all,” said Scott Berkowitz, RAINN’s president. “We also need to make sure the criminal justice system, which is intended to serve victims equally regardless of their student status or age, works better for all victims of sexual violence,” he said.

The study also found that 38% of student victims were attacked at or near their home, versus 50% for non-student victims. Among student victims, 29% were assaulted at or near the home of a friend, relative or acquaintance, versus 17% for non-students.

Twenty percent of student victims say they reported the assault to the police, while 32% of non-students did so. The most common reasons for deciding not to report to police were that is was “a personal matter” or that they had a “fear of reprisal.”

The study also found some regional differences in the risk of assault. Among female students in the Midwest, 8.3 per 1,000 were assaulted each year, while the rate in the South was 4.7 per 1,000.

Read the full report by BJS.

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