RCASA’s Friday Facts: College Campus Sexual Assault

In Education, Friday Facts, Outreach, Prevention, Sexual Assault Awareness on August 3, 2012 at 5:00 am

It is estimated that 20-25% of college women will be victims of an attempted or completed rape during their college careers. In 90% of college cases, the offender is known to the victim, usually a classmate, friend, or acquaintance. According to a report funded by the Department of Justice, roughly one in five women who attend college will become the victim of a rape or an attempted rape by the time she graduates.

Type of Victimization Percentage of Sample Rate per 1,000 students
Completed Rape 1.7% 16.6
Attempted Rape 1.1% 11.0
Threat of Rape 0.3% 3.0
Completed Sexual Coercion 1.7% 16.6
Attempted Sexual Coercion 1.3% 13.5
Completed Sexual Contact 3.7% 31
Attempted Sexual Contact 5.0% 49.9


  • Of the women who had experienced events that fit the legal definition of rape, 46.5% described their victimization as rape.
  • For both completed and attempted rapes, about 9 in 10 offenders were known to the victim, usually a classmate, friend or acquaintance.
  • Fewer than 5% of completed and attempted rapes were reported to law enforcement officials, though the victim did tell another person about the incident in about two-thirds of cases.

As the data suggest, sexual assault and other forms of coercive sexual behavior are part of college life for a substantial number of young women.  The presence of sexual violence is a source of concern for the entire community, and has a grave impact on the affected person’s psychosocial development, intellectual maturation, and identity formation.

  1. Thank you for the link. I do not have the resources to give this document a thorough analysis, but it appears to have side-stepped the most typical methodological errors. Some reservations have to be raised for the questioning procedure, which could possibly have elements of guidance: A discussed sub-study with a different procedure lead to significantly smaller numbers and it is not clear-cut that the main methodology is the better. Further, I cannot find a strict definition of rape in the report, nor a statement about what questions have been counted where (but beware that I have put in limited time), which opens the risk that some non-rape entries are are counted as rapes—and which would invalidate the study entirely.

    I point out, in particular, that if indeed 20–25 % of all college women were raped during their college time, the number of rapes of non-college women would have to be disproportionately few to make the overall statistics match up.

    As an aside, I have no idea who you are (except what can be deduced from the current page) and I find your initial statements somewhat presumptuous.

  2. This claim has been repeatedly and thoroughly debunked. Cf. e.g. http://articles.latimes.com/2008/feb/24/opinion/op-mac_donald24

    I further note that your individual numbers do not even add up to 20 %. Further, that your claims of underreporting do not match what critical investigations show—nor do they factor in the often considerable number of false allegations. (For lack of sources and statements about methodology in your post, I cannot judge the impact of this.)

    • Hi Michael- First let me thank you for following RCASA’s blog and for taking the time to respond. We appreciate your support and are excited to be involved in the social networking movement as a means to bringing public awareness to sexual violence issues.
      I’ve attached the link to the Harvard study from which the Friday Facts blog was taken. If you have any concerns regarding the data presented, you might contact them.
      http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~osapr/facts.html – 21k – Cached
      Again- thank you for your response.

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