One in Six
April 8, 2018
College signals a time of new beginnings. New responsibilities, new friends, new classes, and maybe even a new state. It is a time to start fresh and take that next step into becoming an adult. Many students are excited about entering college because of its aura of freedom that surrounds it. However, that newfound freedom can lead to something more detrimental. According to a study done by the U.S. Department of Justice, females in the age group 18 to 24 have the highest rate of rape and sexual assault when compared to females in other age groups. In another survey from the University of Iowa, 21 percent of female undergraduates said they were raped and 20.5 reported attempted rape.
In 2015, another survey done by the U.S. Department of Justice, which is headed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, found 431,840 incidents of sexual assault or rape, with a majority of the reports coming from 16-19 year olds. College campuses have seemingly become a hot spot for sexual assault and harassment. As for the male side of the story, there are little to no statistics on the number of men who have been sexually assaulted. College campuses offer the same help to students of all ages, sexual orientations, and gender identities; however, males experiencing sexual assault often times do not report the incident due to their mindset and the culture that surrounds them. According to an article on RAINN.org, along with the same feelings and reactions as other sexual assault victims, men “may also face some additional challenges because of social attitudes and stereotypes about men and masculinity.” As a result of this, when a man is sexually assaulted, it is possible they feel shame or embarrassment; therefore, they do not report it.
As stated in another RAINN article, “Men and boys who have been sexually assaulted may experience the same effects of sexual assault as other survivors,” such as anxiety, depression, body issues, and overall psychological damage, but the lack of reporting subjects them to dealing with it alone. A growing support exists for all victims of sexual assault, but because of the lack of statistics on male rapes, the majority of the focus seems to be on women.
Due to the increasing awareness of sexual assault in college, a majority of colleges have instituted procedures on what to do if a student is sexually assaulted or harassed. Iowa Code Section 260c.14 (18) requires the board of directors of each Iowa Community College to establish policies relating to sexual abuse, and many other states around the country have similar policies in place. While speaking about Drake University and their procedures, Public Safety Director Scott Law stated, “Drake works closely with local resources for victims of sexual and interpersonal violence… We also have an anonymous reporting system that students can use to report and seek assistance through.”
According to a study done by the U.S. Department of Justice, only half of sexual assault reports were also reported to the police. One of the reasons for this is nearly 40% of women who were sexually victimized were on a date with the perpetrator. The study elaborates,“Date and acquaintance rapes are far less likely to be reported than stranger rapes.” The study continues by expressing that victims face many other obstacles such as not having proof or fearing that the perpetrator might try and harm them again. Another big impediment that prevented students from reporting sexual assault is the campus policies on alcohol and drug use since the study and many other studies state that drinking alcohol and getting drunk are major risk factors for sexual assault. Despite the many factors against reporting, many policies put in place by college campuses, such as Drake and Iowa State University, encourage reporting such as victim services, having sexual assault peer educators and allowing confidential and anonymous reporting. However, various Iowa colleges and universities have been under investigation by federal authorities for under-reporting sexual assault statistics, including Iowa State University, Grinnell College, Drake University, and the University of Iowa.
Everything aforementioned is not a hypothetical or a ‘thing of the past.’ Reports are still coming in from college students to this day. Our society is making progress by bringing attention to the issue, but it is far from over.
If you or a loved one has been sexually assaulted, call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.