New Study of 9 Colleges Finds 10.3 Percent of Female Students Were Sexually Assaulted Just Last Year

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University of Michigan, which studies have shown has a high percentage of reported sexual assault.
University of Michigan, which studies have shown has a high percentage of reported sexual assault.Photo: Robert Nickelsberg

A new comprehensive study released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics Wednesday confirms that women on college campuses are experiencing sexual assaults at alarming rates. The survey of 15,000 female students and 8,000 male students at nine different universities found that on average, 10.3 percent of undergraduate female students experienced sexual assault (defined as rape and/or sexual battery) just during the 2014 to 2015 academic year.

The study also found that “the prevalence of sexual assault was significantly higher for nonheterosexual than heterosexual female students at the nine schools,” results that square with previous findings.

The rate of sexual assault at the given schools, which were not specifically named in the study, varies tremendously, with 4.2 percent of women at the lowest school reporting sexual assault and 20 percent at the highest. The discrepancy between these numbers implies that campus culture can have a major impact on sexual-assault rates. Another study released earlier this month corroborates this hypothesis; in that study, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the incidence of reported rapes rises precipitously on game days at D-1 football schools.

“Interestingly, there was a huge variation in rates of sexual violence: the rate at the worst school was nearly five times higher than at the best,” RAINN president and founder Scott Berkowitz said in a statement. “This demonstrates that rape isn’t a normal part of the college experience, but rather a horror that can be prevented with strong action from campus leadership and by holding more perpetrators accountable.”