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Study: Just 20 percent of female campus sexual assault victims go to police

December 11, 2014

Young women who are sexually assaulted are vastly unlikely to report those crimes to police, according to a newly released Justice Department report.

Even more striking, women ages 18 to 24 who are in college or trade school are less likely to report such incidents than those who aren't in school, despite the increasing number of sexual assault advocates and counselors on campus in recent years.

Only 32 percent of young women not enrolled in school who were assaulted reported they had been raped or sexually assaulted. Even fewer female college students — 20 percent — chose to go to police.

When asked why they did not report the attack, women had several reasons:

  • About one-fourth of both students and nonstudents said they believed the incident was a personal matter.
  • About 20 percent of both groups said they feared reprisal.
  • Other students and nonstudents said they did not believe the police "would or could do anything to help."
  • More than twice as many student victims — 12 percent – said they thought the incident "was not important enough to report." That compares with 5 percent of nonstudents.

The report released Thursday lands at a time of renewed attention to the issue of campus sexual assault — and amid controversy over a Rolling Stone article about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. The magazine has since backed away from its reporting.

Overall, the report says, the rate of rape and sexual assault among college-age women was 1.2 times higher for nonstudents compared with students.

But the study put that number for both groups at about 6 or 7 young women for every 1,000. That's significantly lower than a study done in 2007 by the National Institutes of Justice that found that almost 1 in 5 women reported having been raped or assaulted while in college.

In other findings, the vast majority of young women, regardless of whether they were enrolled in school, knew their offender, according to the report released Thursday. And 1 in 10 offenders used a weapon.

The report was compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics using data from the annual National Crime Victimization Survey, from 1995 to 2013. Although the research focused on women, it notes that men constituted 17 percent of student sex-assault victims and 4 percent of nonstudent victims.

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