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Overview of Sexual Assault on Campus

Date Published
September 30, 2008

Sexual assault can have devastating effects that can last a lifetime. In addition to the immediate trauma, victims face the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Long-term mental health effects can include depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

College and university administrators want their campuses to be safe havens for students. Congress, too, wants students to be safe, and has passed laws to help colleges be safer.

The National Institute of Justice has funded a number of studies to examine the incidence and prevalence of rape and other forms of sexual assault on college campuses.

Legal definitions of rape, the most serious form of sexual assault, and other forms of sexual assault, vary from state to state. In general, rape includes force or the threat of force, and involves vaginal, anal or oral penetration by a body part (typically a penis, finger or tongue) or an object. Some forms of rape do not necessarily include force or threats, as in the case of children and totally incapacitated adults who are deemed incapable of providing consent.

Other forms of sexual assault may include unwanted sexual touching that does not include penetration.

NIJ research has examined both rape and other forms of sexual assault. Some of the findings presented here are specific to rape, although many are much broader.

Date Published: September 30, 2008