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Articles / Campus Life / Sexual Assault on Campus

April 27, 2020

Sexual Assault on Campus

The issue of sexual assault on college campuses in America is in the headlines again. This time, it's with special emphasis because of the controversial sentencing of Stanford University student, Brock Turner. He was convicted of raping a female Stanford student.

Some details of the rape (or, if you prefer the euphemism, “sexual assault") can be found here. A quote from one of the witnesses of the rape said, “She was unconscious the entire time."


This observation points to a related issue on campus: drugs and alcohol, old problems that have seemed to grow exponentially worse over recent years. Stories like this strike fear into the hearts of parents who have daughters in college. Of course, on balance, we should also note that male college students are also subject to assault, but certainly not at the level of females.

Moving beyond specific cases of campus sexual assault, we can consider some statistics about which U.S. colleges and universities have the biggest problems with rape. The Washington Post has issued a report on just that.

This past week, the Post published These colleges have the most reports of rape. A parental first reaction might be, “Well, my daughter won't be applying to any of these schools!" That would be a mistaken and hasty reaction, in my view. My simple response is, “Sexual assault can happen anywhere, even at colleges not listed here, obviously."

The Post introduces its article with these dramatic words:

Nearly 100 colleges and universities had at least 10 reports of rape on their main campuses in 2014, according to federal campus safety data, with Brown University and the University of Connecticut tied for the highest annual total — 43 each.

The data reflect what victim advocates say is a positive trend: Growing numbers of students who may have experienced a sexual assault are stepping forward to tell authorities about incidents that in years past might have gone unreported.

Trying to take the edge off of being named the #1 sexual assault campus in America, a Brown media operative took the make-lemonade-from-lemons approach in response to the dubious distinction:

“The fact that 43 incidents were reported indicates that we are building trust among our campus community members in how the university responds to reported incidents of sexual and gender-based violence," Brown spokesman Brian E. Clark said in an email.

Mr. Clark should consider running for Congress. His campaign language would be quite smooth, I'm sure. I understand his point that more reports equal more open communication between the student body and the administration, but I think he could have been a bit more judicious in his assessment of the delicacy and gravity of the situation. But that' just me.

Anyway, let's take a look at the list of schools where reported sexual assaults lead the nation.

A Post analysis of the federal data found these 10 schools had the highest total of rape reports on their main campuses in 2014:

  • Brown: 43
  • U-Conn.: 43
  • Dartmouth College: 42
  • Wesleyan University: 37
  • University of Virginia: 35
  • Harvard: 33
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte: 32
  • Rutgers-New Brunswick: 32
  • University of Vermont: 27
  • Stanford: 26

Another way of looking at the data is to analyze rape report totals in the context of the size of enrollment. The Post analysis found these 10 schools had the highest total of reports of rape on their main campuses per 1,000 students:

  • Reed College: 12.9 (reports per 1,000)
  • Wesleyan: 11.5
  • Swarthmore College: 11.0
  • Knox College: 10.0
  • Williams College: 8.9
  • Pomona College: 8.5
  • Bowdoin College: 8.3
  • Gallaudet University: 8.1
  • Beloit College: 6.9
  • Dartmouth: 6.7

I could find no historical data that show what the situation was like back in the day when I went to college. (Maybe they didn't have printing presses then.) The reality of these current numbers, though, is enough to give parents pause about sending their daughters on to higher education.

Of course, the obvious curative approach appears to be on the shoulders of parents, who bear the responsibility of overseeing their children's upbringing and behaviors. Granted, there are many cases of “good kids gone bad" at college, once they escape the oversight of Mom and Dad. However, as the quote from the Daily Mail story I linked to above notes, the Stanford victim was found unconscious, which certainly allowed for the assault to happen.

Some of the comments following the Post article are enlightening:

Only solution I see here is to go back to single-sex housing with no guests after 9 pm and mandatory supervised study periods when there are no classes in session.

The commonality of those high on the list are that they are the Universities promoting liberal agendas or those catering to inner city criminals or both. Irrefutable. [Followed by …]

– They are the Universities who most encourage the reporting, not necessarily the Universities that have the most actual rapes occurring. You are an idiot.

– My rapist was expelled after on campus judicial proceedings. Yet my private school reported zero incidents that year because it happened off campus. It also did not go on his record, and he was allowed to finish the semester even though it happened the first week of school. So the Stanford sentence was actually pretty harsh in comparison. (No witnesses at mine but he openly admitted it, just didn't see what the big deal was.)

Having worked on a College Campus most of my career in the Division of Student Affairs at a number of different College/Universities I invite the writers of this article to write a followup article and investigate the number of students enrolled at any particular University/College that have reported Sexual assaults as opposed to those sexual assaults that were reported as happening on campus. I think you will find a different number as College students raped off Campus don't usually count in the University reports on Sexual Assault.

– Obviously many universities are under reporting – this is a difficult situation for male and females … hormones are flying and people are not careful with their own safety …. girls should not go drunk into boys apartments and boys need to understand no is no … lessons not taught in high school … in particular by parents who assume “the kids just know better" … too many lives are being ruined to avoid a large discussion …

I posted a thread about this article on College Confidential. Feel free to join the discussion. It's an important topic.

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Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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