Rape is the most common violent crime on college campuses today. The 2014 Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault estimates that one in five women is sexually assaulted while in college. In the great majority of cases — about 75- 80 percent — the attacker is an acquaintance, classmate, friend or (ex)boyfriend. Many of these women are assaulted while drugged, drunk, passed out, or otherwise incapacitated.
Colleges and universities are required by federal law (the 1990 Clery Act) to have a policy in place that addresses rape and sexual assault on campus. This policy must include a disciplinary procedure against the perpetrator that is separate from what happens if the crime is reported to the police.
Students who choose to report a rape or sexual assault to campus police personnel or a campus official do not have to decide at that moment whether to file a criminal complaint.
Many college administrations underreport or play down sexual assault incidents so as not to harm the school’s reputation or finances. If the school’s sexual assault counselors are administrators rather than service providers for sexual assault survivors, their priority may be the interests of the school, not access to justice. If you feel your college is not responding to your concerns, or that you are being dismissed, contact one of the organizations listed below.
Most of the rapes that happen on campuses occur between people who know each other. Schools are required to let students change dormitories and to grant a stay-away order against the attacker.
One college student who was raped after drinking at a party eventually decided that she wanted to confront the rapist. Because he was a fellow student, she knew how to contact him:
I saw a counselor a few months later and finally after seven months of not going out, had a mutual friend help me get my rapist into the counselor’s office for a session. I confronted him and told him how I felt about what happened, the results of what he did (nightmares, sexual fear in certain positions), and that next time he wanted to have sex with a drunk person, to just get her a cup of water and tuck her into bed instead, waiting until she was sober to make advances.
Many people and organizations are working together to identify the scope of the problem on college campuses, to help schools respond effectively when a student is assaulted, and to improve the government’s enforcement efforts.
To find help if you have been sexually assaulted, see:
- Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN): To be connected to the rape crisis center nearest to you, call RAINN at 1-800-656-HOPE.
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC): 1-877-739-3895
- National Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474
To find out more about holding colleges and universities responsible for their handling of sexual assault, see