The problem of sexual assaults on college campuses is prominent in the media, and unfortunately, it’s for good reason. A new study conducted by researchers at Brown and Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine found that 18.6 percent of freshmen women at an unnamed college in upstate NY are survivors of an attempted or completed rape. This brings new light to the commonly used statistic that 1 in 5 college women experience sexual assault. Here’s why:
- Previously, the 1 in 5 statistic from the U.S. Department of Justice was criticized, as Kelly Wallace from CNN explains, because it “used a broad definition of sexual assault, which included unwanted kissing and fondling.”
- This study reveals that 1 in 5 women were survivors of incapacitated and forcible rape; it doesn’t even include other unwanted sexual acts. It also draws clear definitions; sexual assault is defined as “any consensual sexual contact” and rape is defined as “nonconsensual intercourse.”
- It specifies when survivors’ rapes occurred. According to the study, 28 percent of women experienced attempted or completed rape before the start of college…
- And 1 in 6 of the women surveyed experienced attempted or completed rape just during their freshman year.
- It’s the first study to distinguish between “incapacitated rape” and “forcible rape” in an effort to help advocates explore new strategies to prevent rape from occurring.
- It focused the study just on first-year students, which has previously been established as the time that rape is most likely to occur.
- Because the subjects were surveyed before, after, and during their first year, the study minimized the potential for “recall bias”: “…Researchers believe their methodology—asking women during their freshman year—might minimize ‘recall bias,’ which would be skewed results when women are asked about what happened during their freshman year several years later,” Kate Carey, lead author of the study, told CNN.
This study disappointingly and disturbingly confirms what we already knew: rape is a huge problem on college campuses. Yet it’s also a call to action. There are incredible student feminists all over the country—from the activists featured in the new documentary The Hunting Ground to Emma Sulkowicz at Columbia—working to end rape on their college campuses. Armed with the information provided from research studies like this one, you too can be a part of the solution.
If you or someone you care about has experienced an attempted or completed rape, RAINN has some great resources.
Image via The Hunting Ground