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How Prevalent Is Campus Sexual Assault in the United States?

NCJ Number
NIJ Journal Issue: 277 Dated: 2016
Date Published
June 2016
5 pages
Publication Series
This article reports the methodology and findings of a study that systematically collected prevalence estimates for campus sexual assault in the United States that were published between January 2000 and February 2015, with "prevalence" defined as the "percentage of study participants who reported sexual victimization since entering college or during a study follow-up period or time frame while attending college."
The overall conclusion of the study is that although prevalence rates for campus sexual assault on college campuses varied among the studies reviewed, they all report that a substantial number of college students were sexually assaulted for the 15-year period covered. This review of the studies found that estimates of completed forcible rape, incapacitated rape, unwanted sexual contact, and sexual coercion on college campuses in the United States varied widely. Unwanted sexual contact and sexual coercion were apparently the most prevalent, followed by incapacitated rape and attempted or completed forcible rape. This article shows which factors are associated with higher or lower prevalence rates. The variability in prevalence rates among estimates is due largely to differences in measurement and definitions of sexual assault among studies. To date, the majority of research on campus sexual assault has been limited to White, heterosexual, female students attending 4-year colleges. Few studies have measured prevalence among racial and ethnic minority students or other students who may be at particular risk for campus sexual assault, such as lesbian and bisexual women, sorority women, students with disabilities, and students who have suffered prior victimization. The authors of this article recommend that schools address this issue by increasing their understanding of the types of sexual victimization occurring on their campuses and then tailor prevention and intervention strategies, as well as victim treatment services, based on their findings.

Date Published: June 1, 2016