Rape on College Campuses Decrease, Yet Reporting Falls Short

In the past two decades, the number of rapes on college campuses has generally decreased, however, 60 percent of rape victims do not ever report the assault, according to the the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), and only 10 to 15 percent of men found responsible for these attacks were ever expelled from schools, according to an in-depth investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and National Public Radio.

These rapes are often committed by someone the victim knows – he could be someone she sees in a class, at the dining hall or a popular student athlete, like the alleged assailant in Elizabeth “Lizzy” Seeburg’s rape at Notre Dame in 2010.

Elizabeth “Lizzy” Seeburg was a freshman at Notre Dame who, like many college women, was looking for a fresh start. She reported being sexually attacked by a member of the schools football team and her new beginning began to unravel as threats and fear set in, according to the article featured in the Chicago Tribune.

Campus authorities failed to report the incident to the local police department or the county’s special victims unit, and Notre Dame held silent on the issue. The alleged assailant continued to take to the football field for the rest of the season and has still not been charged with any crime.

While you may believe cases similar to those of Lizzy are rare, the U.S. Department of Justice reports that one out of five college women will be raped during their college years. In fact, according to RAINN, college aged women are four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the average woman in general.

Several laws, such as the Clery Act, Title IX and the newly proposed Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE Act), have been put into place at the Federal Level, but women on college campuses still face a serious threat of rape.

Prosecutors can sometimes be reluctant to file suit because of alcohol or drug-related occurrences involved with rape on college campuses, creating complicated legal situations, according to the investigation by Center for Public Integrity and National Public Radio. Often, these situations are picked up by campus judicial systems who are often ill-equipped for what can turn into a “he said, she said” battle.

Adding to this issue is the fact that the majority of victims know their assailants and according to the Daily Beast, smaller, more exclusive colleges have higher instances of forcible rape – Harvard University leads the count with 128 reports in the past three years. Because of the smaller size of these institutions, the chance victims will continually face their assaulter is much higher than that at larger universities. Colleges with higher reports of rape are typically located on the East Coast, but others are also located in large urban areas, such as Chicago or Nashville, Tenn.

Despite their post-event behavior, many universities do have systems in place to help try to prevent sexual assault on campus. From mandatory freshman education seminars to women’s resource centers, support does exist.

In fact, if the Campus SaVE Act were to be passed, bystander education would be provided to explain the need for outside help in a potentially dangerous situation.

Additionally, rape victim advocates provide another resource for those who are seeking help. Services such as counseling and advocacy opportunities are often available to survivors who are looking for independent aid. Rape crisis centers are also located throughout the country to provide support to victims and their families.

Another growing area of support for the assaulted is student activism. Through organizations like RAINN, college students are helping to provide information and create awareness among campus populations, especially with regard to legislation, safety and college events like Spring Break.

For the full findings on the Center for Public Integrity’s In-Depth Investigative Piece on Campus Assault, click here.

Sexual Assault By The Numbers:

60% of victims never report sexual assault
14 of 15 offenders walk free
Reporting has increased 1/3 since 1993
Approx.  73% of rape victims know their assailants
Every two minutes, someone in the U.S is sexually assaulted
College women are four times more likely to be sexually assaulted
Victims of sexual assault are 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.
Source: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network Statistics

By Kristy Shaulis, University of Illinois

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