CVI Begins Series on Sexual Assault on Campus

Campus Sexual Assault

The Crime Victims’ Institute initiated a series on campus sexual assault to explore high risk populations, bystander intervention, criminal justice responses and best practices.

The Crime Victims’ Institute at Sam Houston State University launched a new series of reports on sexual assault on college campuses, which will investigate high risk populations, bystander intervention, criminal justice responses, and best practices.

“Sexual Assault: An Overview” is the first report of the series. Written by Cortney A. Franklin, an associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology and master’s student Alondra Garza, it provides an overview of sexual assault, its prevalence on campus, characteristics of perpetrators, risk factors and consequences for victims, and education and awareness.

“Official data and self-report surveys have demonstrated that, among the general population, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will experience an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime,” said Franklin. “On college campuses, women face increased odds of victimization, where between 20 to 25% of women will experience unwanted sexual contact or attempted/completed rape during their time in college.”

Contrary to popular portrayals of stranger rapes, 60% of all sexual assault victims know their attacker. Based on self-report surveys given to college students, 75 to 90 percent of campus victims are assaulted by acquaintances, and 50 percent of the attacks involve the use of alcohol by the perpetrator, victim, or both. Many of these cases are written off as poor decision making, regretful behavior, or bad sex.

However, a 2002 study found a pattern of predatory behavior on campus. In an analysis of 1,882 college men, 120 – or 6.2% -- admitted to engaging in behavior that met the legal definition of rape. Among this subsample, 76 men, representing 63.3%, were repeat offenders, committing an average of six assaults each.

Women between the ages of 18 and 24 years are at the highest risk for becoming victims of sexual assault, especially those with a history of physical or sexual abuse or early sexual activity. Alcohol and drug exposure also contribute to the issue as domisconceptions about dating.

Sexual assault is a life-changing event which can have far-reaching consequences on the victim’s physical and emotional well-being. Among the issues that may arise are anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, elevated fear and startle responses, migraine headaches, sleep interruptions, sexual dysfunction, appetite abnormalities, and gastrointestinal problems. Victims also may be at risk for unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease.

To combat sexual assault on campus, community organizations and advocacy groups launched awareness campaigns. In 1978, Take Back the Night organized marches to protest sexual violence and honor survivors in San Francisco and New York. By the late 1980s, The National Coalition Against Sexual Assault dedicated a week in April to combat violence and raise awareness. Finally, in 2001, Sexual Assault Awareness Month was launched, which heightens awareness and highlights prevention strategies.

Currently, the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault is endorsing a new campaign to stop the violence and encourage bystander intervention. Called “Break the Box,” the new program includes a short video, discussion, activity guides, and posters for groups to use. For more information about the new series, visit “Sexual Assault: An Overview” on the Crime Victims Institute web site.

The Crime Victims’ Institute is a legislatively-funded organization that studies the impact of crime on victims, their friends, families, and society and makes policy recommendations to the Texas Legislature and victim advocacy groups.


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