Newly Released Campus Sexual Violence Data Raise Red Flags

November 23, 2015

 

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Amy Becker
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91 percent of U.S. college campuses report zero incidents of rape, domestic and dating violence, and stalking

WASHINGTON — An American Association of University Women (AAUW) analysis of data recently released by the U.S. Department of Education shows that 91 percent of college campuses reported zero incidents of rape in 2014.

“The data reported by the nation’s colleges simply defy reality and commonsense,” said Lisa M. Maatz, vice president of government relations at AAUW. “These numbers don’t reflect campus climate surveys and academic research, let alone what we’re hearing from students themselves.”

Under the Clery Act, American colleges and universities are required to disclose reported crimes on their campuses, including incidents of sexual assault. These annual safety reports are also required to include information about schools’ training and prevention efforts to improve campus safety. “The abundance of zeros in the 2014 reports raises real concerns about how colleges are handling sexual assault incidents on campus,” said Maatz.

For the first time this year, because of new reporting requirements passed in the 2013 Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), campuses are now providing data on dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking in addition to rape statistics. And yet, in each of these new categories only 9–11 percent of campuses disclosed at least one reported incident in 2014.

“What these zeros really tell us is that students don’t feel comfortable coming forward with formal reports at these schools,” said Maatz. “Why? Perhaps the school doesn’t have good services or processes in place or is not perceived as being supportive when students do come forward. Believe me, word gets around the campus community. Needless to say, this is not the reputation colleges want if they’re going to effectively address campus sexual assault.”

AAUW’s analysis of the 2014 data provides a further breakdown of the numbers, along with background on what the data say about schools that reported zero incidents of rape, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. The analysis also provides information about the new VAWA requirements and how to easily access the data, school by school.

AAUW’s analysis shows that campuses that disclosed a report of one type of incident were more likely to disclose reports of other types of incidents, indicating that some schools are clearly working to do the right thing when it comes to disclosing campus incidents and addressing sexual violence.

“Where schools have built systems to welcome reports, support survivors, and disclose statistics correctly, the numbers show that they’re on the right track,” said Maatz. “These reports are incredibly useful in designing and implementing adequate responses and building programs to address gender-based violence. Schools that aren’t using this tool are shortchanging their entire campus communities.”

Study after study shows that sexual harassment and violence are far too prevalent in institutions of higher education. Many people are familiar with the statistic that one in five women is sexually assaulted during college; less well known is that more than one in five college women experiences physical abuse, sexual abuse, or threats of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. “Schools should have a strong commitment to getting these numbers right,” said Maatz. “It’s not only the law — their students’ well-being and access to education are on the line.”

The full 2014 data set is available online from the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, every school’s annual security report should contain this information.

 

Amy Becker By:   |   November 23, 2015