New Study Shows One-In-Five Women Sexually Assaulted On Campus

Ken AshfordCrime, Women's IssuesLeave a Comment

A new study published online by the Journal of Adolescent Health finds that almost one-in-five women experience sexual assault ion college.  The study, titled “Incapacitated and Forcible Rape of College Women: Prevalence Across the First Year,” which focused on first-year female students at one New York college, attempted to measure how frequently rape or attempted rape occurred by having female students fill out surveys throughout their freshman year.  I have attached the study below.

Of the 483 women who completed the questionnaires, 18.6 percent reported instances of attempted rape. Incidences of rape were significantly higher when alcohol or drugs were involved.

This isn’t the first study to give the 20% figure (or thereabouts)…. it is just another data point in the long debate.  The well-known “one in five” studies were not intended to be national data; neither does this study.

And yes, as with all studies like this, there comes a caveat.  Jesse Singal of the Science of Us blog writes:

It turns out it’s really, really hard to measure the frequency of sexual assault in any given setting. All the usual problems familiar to survey researchers and pollsters — among them the ease with which different people can interpret the same question differently, and people’s natural inclination to hide things they feel ashamed of or traumatized by — are compounded when the subject is rape.

This explains why some studies find a “one-in-five” result, while others place it closer to 0.6% (Read here for more on the subject of dueling data rates).  The study below is one attempt to pluck out some bias.

First of all, to help reduce the potential for bias in the respondent pool, the study was “buried” in a survey about general health.

Secondly, the researchers broke out their results into multiple categories of rape and were careful to separate out victims who were “only” groped from those who were actually raped, or who escaped an attempted actual rape.  They also broke into categories of incapacitated rape, or IR, which involves instances in which “alcohol or other drugs [were] used,” while forcible rape, or FR, deals with rapes in which the victim was physically overpowered.  As expected, IR was more common than FR.

But with all that in mind, the fact remains that sexual violence on college campuses is a persistent problem. For decades, conservatives have resisted calls for campuses to better protect women by dismissing the issue as overblown. Certainly, the fallout over Rolling Stone‘s botched campus rape investigation only fuels detractors willing to dismiss this problem.  But studies like the one published by the Journal of Adolescent Health to provide solid data should help legitimize the problem so that potential assaults might be avoided.

Another finding: the study found that women who had a precollege history of sexual assault were more likely to experience revictimization in college, particularly IR (incapacitated rape, both attempted and complete).  The study suggest that programs for women may be needed to address repeated victimization (as well as, of course, general sexual assault awareness programs for both men and women).

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