Thursday, June 6, 2024

Dangerous Spaces: Sexual Assault and Other Forms of Violence On and Off Campus

US colleges and universities are often physically unsafe. And there is no sure way to know how dangerous they are.  Incoming students and their families should conduct reasonable steps, talking seriously, and in enough detail, to remain safe on and off college and university campuses.

Cover Ups are the Norm

The US Department of Education keeps formal records of crime on campus, but most crimes, as much as 80 percent, go unreported. Efforts to increase transparency about violence through institutional-level victim surveys have never been required.

Under the previous Trump administration, which sided with predators over victims, formally reported numbers became even more questionable. If Mr. Trump is elected this November, people should expect him to again roll back Department of Education regulations meant to increase transparency and protect crime victims. 

Higher education institutions (and their affiliate organizations) have also been known to systematically cover up crimes, particularly sexual assault. Campus police and campus services may or may not be supportive.  Knowing that a school does not protect students, or that it may even punish victims, ensures that that fewer will report crimes.  The NCAA and Greek governing bodies have also not done enough to reduce predators and prevent students from becoming victims.  

Crimes just off campus are also of concern, especially in off campus housing and fraternities, where alcohol and drugs are readily available and there is a culture of rape and violence--and where serial offenders are protected from prosecution. Hooking up with dating apps can also be dangerous.

Conduct Independent Research

It is estimated that 20 to 25 percent of all female students are victims of violence. Male students are also frequent victims of violence, particularly from other men. Those most vulnerable are (1) women, (2) underclassmen, (3) racial, ethnic and sexual minorities, (4) sorority women, (5) students with disabilities, and (6) students with past histories of sexual victimization. 

Sex crimes include unwanted sexual contact, forcible rape, incapacitated rape, and drug- or alcohol-facilitated rape.   

Elite universities, religious schools, and military service academies are not immune to violence, rape culture, and sexual harassment. Sexual harassment may come not just from fellow students but also faculty and staff. 

Consumers should independently research whether there have been victim surveys at the schools they are planning to attend. Anonymous surveys and criminal lawsuits indicate that the discrepancy between formal reports can be enormous. Consumers may be (and should be) alarmed at some of the victim numbers at America's most respected schools.

Finding little information does not guarantee that the school is safe for students. Especially when institutions value reputation over safety.  

The Talk and Plans to Stay Safe 

Incoming students and their families should discuss how to stay safe on and off campus. This may be a particularly difficult conversation, but one worth discussing in detail. Awareness is essential before and during the college years. Colleges themselves may or may not be supportive. 

Staying away from male athletes, fraternities, and other male-dominated spaces, avoiding places where drugs and alcohol are used, and traveling in safe groups are obvious strategies not just for women, but also for men. But that may still not be enough to avoid being preyed upon.

Related links: 

Campus sexual assault (American Psychological Association)

Effects of sexual victimization on suicidal ideation and behavior in U.S. college women (S. Stepakoff, Suicide Life Threat Behavior, 1998)

Understanding the Predatory Nature of Sexual Violence (Sexual assault Report, David Lisak, 2011)

Article Institution-Specific Victimization Surveys: Addressing Legal and Practical Disincentives
to Gender-Based Violence Reporting on College Campuses (Nancy Chi Cantalupo, Trauma, Violence, and Abuse, 2014)

Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action (The White House Council on Women and Girls, 2014).

College sexual assault: 1 in 5 college women say they were violated (Washington Post, 2015)

Education Department withdraws Obama-era campus sexual assault guidance (CNN, 2017)

Measuring campus sexual assault and culture: A systematic review of campus climate surveys (Krause et al., Psychology of Violence, 2018)

Climate Survey On Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct (Association of American Universities, 2019)

Campus-Level Variation in the Prevalence of Student Experiences of Sexual Assault and Intimate Partner Violence (C. Moylan, et al, Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, 2019)

Preventing College Sexual Victimization by Reducing Hookups: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Personalized Normative Feedback Intervention (M. Testa, et al., Prevention Science, 2020)

After pandemic pause, more incoming college students may face sexual assault risks (PBS News Hour, 2021) 

After Rape Accusations, Fraternities Face Protests and Growing Anger (NY Times, 2021)

Don’t send your daughter to college here: University rankings for sexual assault (Nassir Ghaemi, 2021)

Due Process: A look at USC’s sexual assault culture (Twesha Dikshit, Daily Trojan, 2022)

Colleges rely on honor system when checking sexual assault background of student athletes (USA Today, 2023) 
They ‘broke her’: Family files wrongful death claim against Air Force, alleging academy failed to follow sex assault, suicide policies

Read more at: https://www.stripes.com/branches/air_force/2023-11-08/air-force-academy-sex-assault-suicide-11973994.html
Source - Stars and Stripes

They "broke her": family files wrongful death claim against Air Force, alleging academy failed to follow sexual assault, suicide policies (Stars and Stripes, 2023)

They ‘broke her’: Family files wrongful death claim against Air Force, alleging academy failed to follow sex assault, suicide policies

Read more at: https://www.stripes.com/branches/air_force/2023-11-08/air-force-academy-sex-assault-suicide-11973994.html
Source - Stars and Stripes
They ‘broke her’: Family files wrongful death claim against Air Force, alleging academy failed to follow sex assault, suicide policies

Read more at: https://www.stripes.com/branches/air_force/2023-11-08/air-force-academy-sex-assault-suicide-11973994.html
Source - Stars and Stripes
They ‘broke her’: Family files wrongful death claim against Air Force, alleging academy failed to follow sex assault, suicide policies

Read more at: https://www.stripes.com/branches/air_force/2023-11-08/air-force-academy-sex-assault-suicide-11973994.html
Source - Stars and Stripes
They ‘broke her’: Family files wrongful death claim against Air Force, alleging academy failed to follow sex assault, suicide policies

Read more at: https://www.stripes.com/branches/air_force/2023-11-08/air-force-academy-sex-assault-suicide-11973994.html
Source - Stars and Stripes
They ‘broke her’: Family files wrongful death claim against Air Force, alleging academy failed to follow sex assault, suicide policies

Read more at: https://www.stripes.com/branches/air_force/2023-11-08/air-force-academy-sex-assault-suicide-11973994.html
Source - Stars and Stripes
They ‘broke her’: Family files wrongful death claim against Air Force, alleging academy failed to follow sex assault, suicide policies

Read more at: https://www.stripes.com/branches/air_force/2023-11-08/air-force-academy-sex-assault-suicide-11973994.html
Source - Stars and Stripes
They ‘broke her’: Family files wrongful death claim against Air Force, alleging academy failed to follow sex assault, suicide policies

Read more at: https://www.stripes.com/branches/air_force/2023-11-08/air-force-academy-sex-assault-suicide-11973994.html
Source - Stars and Stripes
They ‘broke her’: Family files wrongful death claim against Air Force, alleging academy failed to follow sex assault, suicide policies

Read more at: https://www.stripes.com/branches/air_force/2023-11-08/air-force-academy-sex-assault-suicide-11973994.html
Source - Stars and Stripes
They ‘broke her’: Family files wrongful death claim against Air Force, alleging academy failed to follow sex assault, suicide policies

Read more at: https://www.stripes.com/branches/air_force/2023-11-08/air-force-academy-sex-assault-suicide-11973994.html
Source - Stars and Stripes
Liberty University fined record $14 million for violating campus safety law  (Washington Post, 2024)

Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics (RAINN)

End Rape on Campus 

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