One in Four College Women Experience Sexual Assault

One in four college women are sexually assaulted before graduation.

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Complex Original

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Over 50 women have come forward with allegations of sexual assault against Bill Cosby. These women have been blamed for their own alleged assaults, they’ve been called liars, they’ve been called opportunists and every other name in the book for not reporting the assaults earlier—either from fear or shame—and now they’ve been crucified for telling their stories. The same happens when women report sexual assaults on college campuses—that’s why so many incidents go unreported. And yet, a survey by the American Association of Universities, which involved 150,000 students at 27 of the nation’s top colleges and universities (all of the Ivy League schools minus Princeton), said 27.2 percent of senior college women reported being sexually assaulted during their time at college. Basically 1 in 4 women.

Although sexual assault is defined differently in legislation from state to state and campus to campus, this survey defined it as any unwanted sexual contact which could range from touching to rape either by force or through the use of alcohol and/or drugs. Of the 27.2 percent, 13.5 percent of the women said they had experienced either penetration or attempted penetration, or oral sex. But when the study included sexual assaults that didn't involve force or incapacitation, rather persuasion or a lack of consent (This does not mean the absence of "no")—now recognized by some campuses as sexual assault—the statistic jumped to 1 in 3 women.

According to the survey, almost 75 percent of women did not report assaults that involved penetration, whether it be to an authority figure or law enforcement. Women surveyed said they didn’t report the assaults because they were ashamed, didn’t think anyone would believe them, or sadly, didn’t think the assaults were serious to warrant a report. 

Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, deputy director of Know Your IX, an organization fighting against sexual assault, said “This survey is significant confirmation of a major problem, and it confirms what we’ve been saying about the mind-set on campus and the reception survivors expect to encounter.”

The survey, which you can read in full here, also reported 8.6 percent of male college seniors said they had received unwanted sexual contact.

Transgender students, gender non-conforming students, and others on the gender spectrum reportedly had higher assault rates than women. 

[via NYT]

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