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Violence Against Women on the Internet

Campus Sexual Assault Policies
(opens: 4.16.02)
(opens: 4.23.02)
Sex Trafficking
(opens: 4.30.02)
The Internet as a Site of Resistance
(opens: 5.7.02)
(opens: 5.14.02)
NOTE: Modules will launch by 5 p.m. U.S. Eastern time on the date listed.

Campus Sexual Assault: the scope of the problem, the legal remedies available

Consider the following excerpt from AMA Report, "Facts about Sexual Assualt."

"A survey of 6,159 college students enrolled at 32 institutions in the U.S. found: 54% of the women surveyed had been the victims of some form of sexual abuse; more than one in four college-aged women had been the victim of rape or attempted rape; 57% of the assaults occurred on dates; 73% of the assailants and 55% of the victims had used alcohol or other drugs prior to the assault; 25% of the men surveyed admitted some degree of sexually aggressive behavior; 42% of the victims told no one…

. . .In a survey of male college students: 35% anonymously admitted that, under certain circumstances, they would commit rape if they believed they could get away with it. One in 12 admitted to committing acts that met the legal definitions of rape, and 84% of men who committed rape did not label it as rape.

In another survey of college males: 43% of college-aged men admitted to using coercive behavior to have sex, including ignoring a woman's protest, using physical aggression, and forcing intercourse. 15% acknowledged they had committed acquaintance rape; 11% acknowledged using physical restraints to force a woman to have sex. Women with a history of rape or attempted rape during adolescence were almost twice as likely to experience a sexual assault during college, and were three times as likely to be victimized by a husband. Sexual assault is reported by 33% to 46% of women who are being physically assaulted by their husbands."

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, young women (ages 16-24) are most at risk of being raped. A study published in American College Health (September 1997) found that one out of every five young women surveyed reported they had been forced to have sexual intercourse. [1]

Largely because of the pervasive stigma of sexual violence and the perception that most complaints are not investigated or prosecuted zealously, rape is the most underreported crime in this country. According to the Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey, almost two-thirds of rape victims do not report the crime to the police; the Department of Justice estimates that only 36% of rapes, 20% of attempted rapes, and 41% of other sexual assaults are reported to the police. And when rape is reported to the criminal justice system, it has a lower conviction rate than robbery. This low conviction rate has nothing to do with the pervasive myth that most rape cases are based on false accusations: according to the FBI, less than 2% of reported rapes are false accusations, which is the same percentage as false accusations made about other violent crimes.

Despite the requirement under the Campus Security Act of 1990 to report serious crimes on campus, few universities comprehensively track the number of sexual assaults on their campuses. On the one hand, universities are unable to accurately do so because rape so often goes unreported. However, the fact that the majority of accused rapists go unpunished then sends a message to victims that the university will not listen to their case.

When victims do report sexual assaults to their university, administrators often convince sexual assault victims to utilize the college's disciplinary system by promising that the matter will be handled quietly, an inducement not offered by civil authorities. This 'quiet handling' could sometimes offer victims a more supportive and therapeutic procedure than the courts would-but often such 'quiet' procedures strive to protect the university more than they aim to aid the victim.

Because so many university sexual assault policies work to make invisible the real prevalence of rape on campus, the general public may believe their local campus is a safe place. In reality many young men have been sent the message that they can rape without consequence.

[1] "Criminal Victimization 1994," National Crime Victimization Survey, Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, April 1996.

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