Campus Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is a pervasive issue on college campuses. About 13% of all students in the United States have experienced some form of sexual assault during their enrollment.











What is sexual violence?

As explained in STM Learning’s Sexual Assault Victimization Across the Life Span, Second Edition, Vol. 3, sexual violence is defined as any unwanted sexual contact from another person (or people). This can include inappropriate touching, any form of sexual assault, and rape.

Sexual violence can lead to a variety of situational risk factors, such as negative effects on physical health (eg, sexually transmitted infections) and emotional health (eg, anxiety, depression). These negative health effects can impact students’ academic performance and increase the likelihood of alcohol and drug abuse. 

How many students are affected?

According to RAINN, women between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most at risk of victimization. More than 26% of female undergraduate students are victims of sexual violence. Women in the same age group who are not college students face an even greater risk than their peers. In general, women of color are more likely to experience sexual violence than white women, although they are less likely to report it. 

While a smaller percentage of men are victims of sexual violence; overall, male college students are considerably more likely to be assaulted than men in the same age group who are not in school. Nearly 7% of undergraduate men have experienced some form of sexual assault.

LGBTQ+ Students are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence on college campuses. Over 70% of LGBTQ+ students have experienced some form of sexual harassment or abuse. Among these students, bisexual women have reported the highest rates of rape and physical/sexual abuse.

According to End Rape on Campus, “Nearly 1 in 4 undergraduate students who are transgender or gender non-conforming experience sexual assault in college.” About half of transgender or gender non-conforming students of color have reported being victims of verbal harassment on campus as well. 

While the above numbers are unnerving enough, a majority of the incidents and threats of sexual violence on college campuses go unreported, meaning the rates of sexual violence could potentially be even higher. In general, rape and other forms of sexual violence are among the most under-reported crimes.

What resources are available?

On Campus

Under the Clery Act, universities are required to report a number of crimes, including sexual violence, to authorities. Many universities will require faculty members to act as mandated reporters, and the designation is sometimes given to leaders of student organizations as well. While mandated reporters can be a good point of contact, survivors should understand that this title requires them to inform the university if any type of sexual violence is disclosed to them.

If students wish to report an assault themselves, most on-campus police stations have a 24/7 hotline that can be called. Several university law enforcement agencies have staff responsible for assisting survivors and hosting rape prevention programs. Some schools also have programs set up for students to receive officer escorts if they do not feel comfortable walking across campus alone at night.

All universities are also required to have a Title IX coordinator to ensure the school is complying with nationwide regulations for handling reports of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence. 

Off Campus

  • The National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673) is available 24/7 to assist anyone wanting to report or talk about sexual abuse.  
  • End Rape on Campus has compiled a list of resources for different survivor populations. 
  • Know Your IX breaks down student rights and offers legal advice for survivors.
  • Best Colleges details step-by-step instructions on what actions to take immediately after an assault. It also includes advice on moving forward and long-term recovery.   

This blog was written by STM Learning’s editorial staff for educational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific medical or legal advice. For expert information on the discussed subjects, please refer to STM Learning’s publications

This article was originally published on August 12, 2020. It was updated for republication on August 24, 2021.


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