Campus Sexual Assault: the scope
of the problem, the legal remedies available
Consider the following excerpt from AMA Report, "Facts about
"A survey of 6,159 college students enrolled at 32 institutions
in the U.S. found: 54% of the women surveyed had been the victims
of some form of sexual abuse; more than one in four college-aged
women had been the victim of rape or attempted rape; 57% of the
assaults occurred on dates; 73% of the assailants and 55% of the
victims had used alcohol or other drugs prior to the assault; 25%
of the men surveyed admitted some degree of sexually aggressive
behavior; 42% of the victims told no one
. . .In a survey of male college students: 35% anonymously admitted
that, under certain circumstances, they would commit rape if they
believed they could get away with it. One in 12 admitted to committing
acts that met the legal definitions of rape, and 84% of men who
committed rape did not label it as rape.
In another survey of college males: 43% of college-aged men admitted
to using coercive behavior to have sex, including ignoring a woman's
protest, using physical aggression, and forcing intercourse. 15%
acknowledged they had committed acquaintance rape; 11% acknowledged
using physical restraints to force a woman to have sex. Women with
a history of rape or attempted rape during adolescence were almost
twice as likely to experience a sexual assault during college, and
were three times as likely to be victimized by a husband. Sexual
assault is reported by 33% to 46% of women who are being physically
assaulted by their husbands."
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, young women (ages 16-24)
are most at risk of being raped. A study published in American College
Health (September 1997) found that one out of every five young women
surveyed reported they had been forced to have sexual intercourse.
Largely because of the pervasive stigma of sexual violence and the
perception that most complaints are not investigated or prosecuted
zealously, rape is the most underreported crime in this country.
According to the Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization
Survey, almost two-thirds of rape victims do not report the crime
to the police; the Department of Justice estimates that only 36%
of rapes, 20% of attempted rapes, and 41% of other sexual assaults
are reported to the police. And when rape is reported to the criminal
justice system, it has a lower conviction rate than robbery. This
low conviction rate has nothing to do with the pervasive myth that
most rape cases are based on false accusations: according to the
FBI, less than 2% of reported rapes are false accusations, which
is the same percentage as false accusations made about other violent
Despite the requirement under the Campus
Security Act of 1990 to report serious crimes on campus, few
universities comprehensively track the number of sexual assaults
on their campuses. On the one hand, universities are unable to accurately
do so because rape so often goes unreported. However, the fact that
the majority of accused rapists go unpunished then sends a message
to victims that the university will not listen to their case.
When victims do report sexual assaults to their university, administrators
often convince sexual assault victims to utilize the college's disciplinary
system by promising that the matter will be handled quietly, an
inducement not offered by civil authorities. This 'quiet handling'
could sometimes offer victims a more supportive and therapeutic
procedure than the courts would-but often such 'quiet' procedures
strive to protect the university more than they aim to aid the victim.
Because so many university sexual assault policies work to make
invisible the real prevalence of rape on campus, the general public
may believe their local campus is a safe place. In reality many
young men have been sent the message that they can rape without
 "Criminal Victimization 1994,"
National Crime Victimization Survey, Bureau of Justice Statistics
Bulletin, United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice
Programs, April 1996.
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