Have You Experienced Sexual Assault Or Abuse?

College Campus Sexual Violence Statistics

Key Takeaways

  • University and college sexual violence is a growing problem and is perpetrated by both students and university employees such as coaches, professors, or other staff members
  • Campus sexual assault makes up the greatest proportion of on-campus crimes — 43%
  • If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence on a university or college campus, you have legal rights and options
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Sexual violence is defined as any unwanted sexual contact or behavior in which consent is not present. Many state, federal, and international agencies consider sexual violence a public health crisis needing immediate action.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Over 33% of all women experience violent sexual contact at least once
  • The lifetime cost of rape is $122,461 per victim
  • 33% of female rape victims and nearly 25% of male rape victims experience their first sexual assault between the ages of 11-17

Sexual violence on college campuses is a growing problem that is often obfuscated. Numerous studies and reports have documented this somewhat invisible scourge. Studies are often the only source of information regarding on-campus sexual crimes because these crimes are severely underreported and universities are not incentivized to be transparent about the harms that happen on their campuses.

A report commissioned by the United States Department of Justice uncovered many alarming facts about on-campus sexual violence between the years of 1995-2013. Of particular concern, they reported that:

  • Sexual attacks on women students were more likely to go unreported than those on non-students
  • Women student victims were more likely to believe their sexual assault incident was too trivial to report
Last Date Modified
February 29, 2024
Content Reviewed By:

Kathryn Kosmides
Managing Director | Helping Survivors

What is Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence is any sexual act or threat that is nonconsensual. It may or may not result in the culmination of a sexual act. Sexual violence can take many forms, including:

  • Attempted rape and sexual assault
  • Rape and sexual assault
  • Coercion for sex
  • Digital sexual harassment, such as sexual photos and texts
  • Nonconsensual groping or fondling
  • Intimate partner violence of a sexual nature
  • Voyeurism
  • Public masturbation
  • Incest and child sexual abuse
  • Unwanted exposing
  • Stalking

Sexual violence is not dependent on whether the victim and perpetrator are peers, partners, or strangers. In cases of intimate partner violence (IPV), sexual coercion and rape can and do occur even though there is an ongoing relationship.

In cases of intimate partner violence (IPV), sexual coercion and rape can and do occur even though there is an ongoing relationship.In fact, IPV is common on and off campus and represents a large percentage of cases of sexual and nonsexual violence towards women. Intimate partner violence is violence between two people in an intimate relationship, such as two students or a student and a faculty member. While someone consents to the relationship, they may not consent to acts within the relationship or realize they were being groomed.

If you are not sure where to turn, RAINN can help.

Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to talk confidentially with a trained professional from RAINN.

They can put you in touch with local resources and organizations that can help in your healing journey.

If you want to speak to a lawyer about your experience, we can help.

Campus Sexual Assault Makes up the Greatest Proportion — 43% — of Total On-Campus Crimes in the United States

The prevalence of campus sexual violence towards women is alarming. In 2019, the Association of American Universities (AAU) commissioned a survey to continue its effort (begun in 2015) of data collection regarding the issues of sexual assault and misconduct.

Types of questions asked on the survey included inquiries about nonconsensual sexual contacts, stalking, intimate partner violence (IPV), and the availability and utilization of campus resources for sexual assault victims.

One alarming piece of information gleaned in the survey was that one in every four college women has experienced some form of sexual violence.

The 2019 survey was a follow-up to the first study conducted in 2015, which surveyed the student populations of 27 schools. The 2019 survey had 33 schools and 181,752 students participate.

The women surveyed were undergraduate and graduate students. The results showed that undergraduates were nearly three times more likely to experience sexual violence than women working towards advanced degrees.

According to the survey:

65% of rape and 66.7% of sexual touching incidents included offenders who were drinking alcohol when the attack took place

Across all schools, between 67% and 90% of women who suffered non consensual penetration were drinking themselves

3% of women penetration victims reported that a substance was slipped into their drink, rendering them unable to give consent

11% of women penetration victims suspected that they were given something to render them unable to give consent

Attacks on 35.3% of all women penetration victims who knowingly or unknowingly ingested a substance occurred with the victim unconscious for some or all of the assault

22.9% of women penetration victims were unsure of whether they were asleep or passed out

Unfortunately, the data demonstrates that college women are in danger of being sexually assaulted during their time at school.

Sexual Violence is Common on College Campuses

The rates of sexual victimization quantified in the survey show that differences in the prevalence rates of sexual victimization at different schools were statistically insignificant.

However, there were differences in prevalence rates between certain schools:

5 schools had

14%-20%
undergrad female victimization rate

16 schools had

21%-25%
undergrad female victimization rate

12 schools had

26%-32%

undergrad female victimization rate

Some schools had a prevalence rate as low as 14%, while others had a prevalence rate of 32% of women undergraduates—more than double. The entire study results are alarming and need to be addressed.

For graduate-level college women, the rates of female sexual victimization are lower but still shocking. Nearly 10% of women pursuing professional degrees reported being the victim of nonconsensual sexual contact involving physical force or the inability to consent to or stop what was happening.

Additionally, graduate-level women were more likely to be stalked than their undergraduate counterparts. Perpetrators frequently included instructors and colleagues.

Another study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) looked at sexual assault against young adults for the 2014-2015 school year and found similar numbers. The study also showed that as many of 10% of college women who were sexually victimized suffered penetration, which is defined as forcible rape.

The findings in the BJS study are concerning and are backed up by another study carried out between 2005-2007. The Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) study was administered as a survey and showed high numbers of sexual assaults, including 11.1% of women being assaulted while incapacitated.

Sexual Violence by Year of Study

Another data point the AAU study looked at was the incidence rate of sexual violence against college women by year in school. The data shows an interesting trend present at all 33 schools surveyed: reported incidences of sexual violence decline from 16.1% of freshman college women to 11.3% of seniors.

Various plausible reasons may explain why the incidences of college sexual violence decrease as a woman progresses through college. One reason is orientation and familiarity, as a first year student may find campus life and the new surroundings unfamiliar and be unsure how to navigate.

However, nothing in this data should be construed to imply that women are responsible for their own assaults. Their maturity levels or familiarity with risks on campus are not causes of sexual assault. The perpetrator is always the individual at fault. Policymakers should use caution when interpreting the data and not draw faulty and potentially harmful conclusions that place responsibility on victims.

It must also be noted that the four-year decline in sexual violence is not drastic and that there are still many violations perpetrated on women in latter years of study.

University Sexual Assault Doesn't Always Happen on Campus

The AAU survey demonstrates definite trends for where sexual violence against college women takes place. According to the data, women victimized by penetration reported being assaulted in the following locations:

  • 30.2% in residential housing
  • 26.1% in the university residence hall/dorm
  • 10.7% at a fraternity house
  • 19.3% did not specify

The numbers for sexual touching are somewhat different:

  • 20.1% in fraternity houses
  • 19.2% in restaurants/bars
  • 17.2% in residential housing
  • 16% in residence halls

Sexual Violence is More Common than Other Crimes on Campus

Crime statistics for universities and colleges show that sexual violence occurs more often than other crimes. For example, the crime of robbery is defined as theft through the use or threat of force. Statistics show that women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted than robbed while on campus—although they are less likely to report sexual assult. In contrast, women off campus are more likely to be robbed than sexually assaulted.

Sexual Violence Happens more During the Fall Semester

As summer gives way to fall, droves of students return to classes at their respective institutions of higher learning. They are full of excitement and energy, ready to take on a new school year and, for many, attend parties and social events. Given the correlation between sexual assault and alcohol use, the incidence rate of sexual violence rises during the first few months of the new school year.

According to a 2007 study by the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), the vast majority of sexually assaulted college women reported being victimized in the month of October. Of this majority, 20% were victims of physical assault, and 16% were incapacitated.

Over the last few years, the term “The Red Zone” has been used to describe the period of time between the first day students arrive on campus through Thanksgiving break, which is when the most amount of sexual assaults occur on campuses.

Potential Negative Impacts of Sexual Assault on Young Adults

Sexual violence can negatively impact the lives of young adults for years and even decades following sexual trauma. In addition to the normal rigors of life, sexual assault victims must also contend with traumatic memories and injuries that stifle their progress.

Many young adults who experience sexual violence also experienced it as minors. According to the CDC, a female child who experiences sexual abuse has a 2-13 times increased risk of becoming a victim of a sexual assault later in life. Individuals who are victimized sexually as minors face double the risk of being in a non-sexual abusive relationship as an adult.

Common Injuries After Experiencing Sexual Assault

Victims may also have to tend with other difficult and potentially life-altering injuries suffered in an assault. . Some common injuries include:

Emotional Injuries from Campus Sexual Violence

The psychological injuries caused by sexual assault can be numerous:

  • There may be anxiety and paranoia about the future and life in general.
  • The stress caused by a violent sexual attack can often cause PTSD, which can wreak havoc on the normal functioning of victims’ lives.
  • Depression is common after sexual violence. Life can lose its meaning after a traumatic attack, and many find it difficult to get through the day.
  • Suicidal thoughts are concerning yet sadly common among sexual violence victims.

Rights and Options After Experiencing Sexual Assault

If you have been the victim of a sexual assault, there are different options available. We understand that each individual’s experience and needs are unique and below you’ll find some of the different options available.

Safety First

Get to a place of safety, where the individual can no longer reach you. This could be a friend’s dorm, an off-campus safe place, a hospital, or your own place of residency if you feel safe there.

Get Medical Care

Next, you should focus on seeking medical care for injuries and STD testing if required. You can get medical care and STD testing with or without having a SANE (rape kit) exam. Not every medical facility can perform SANE exams, and you can use this resource to find local SANE exam locations.

Document What Happened

After you are physically safe, we recommend writing down everything that happened and storing any other evidence. Callisto is a tech nonprofit that just rolled out their perpetrator reporting and matching technology to all universities, and this may be a valuable tool for survivors during this time.

Contact Campus Authorities and Police

After you’ve documented your experience, you may want to report to either campus authorities, such as the campus police and/or the Title IX office, or local law enforcement. If you are unsure about this process, you can contact a hotline and/or call law enforcement to ask your questions.

Seek Counseling

Talking about sexual assault with a trained professional can help you heal from the trauma caused by an assault. Calling a hotline like RAINN can help you find immediate resources, but we recommend seeking out a specialized therapist or a program like Bloom by Chayn, which is a private online course survivors of sexual trauma can go through to help them on their healing journey.

Seek Out Support Groups

Survivors of sexual abuse have banded together in a variety of different forums and groups to support each others’ recoveries and day-to-day lives. You may find that online groups or following pages that discuss healing may be useful.

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