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Only 20% of college sexual assault victims report it to the police

  1. According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, women in college are less likely than women their age who aren't in college to go to the police if they're sexually assaulted.
  2. From 1995-2013, 80 percent of sexual-assault victims in college didn't report their assaults. Among 18- to 24-year-old women who weren't in college, 67 percent reported to the police.
  3. Sexual assaults are generally much less likely to get reported than other violent crimes, but college students' reporting rate is even lower than average.
  4. The study also finds that only 4 percent of college students said they'd reported their assault to another official. 14 percent of nonstudents did.

college rape victims

What the study looked at

The new BJS report is based on the National Crime Victimization Survey, which is the federal government's way of tallying up crime rates based on talking to victims. (Read more on how the crime survey works here.) It took information from the 1995 to 2013 editions of the survey, and compared women between 18 and 24 years old who said they were in college, to women the same age who said they weren't.

The report estimates that 6.1 of every 1000 college students are raped or sexually assaulted every year; assault is slightly more common among college-age nonstudents (7.6 per 1000).

Those rates are lower than other studies of college women, including federal studies, have found. The BJS says this is probably a difference of methodology: the crime victims study, which this report is based on, simply asks women about "unwanted sexual activity," while other studies list specific behaviors or scenarios women might have experienced.

College students are less likely to report assaults to police, or other officials

Sexual assault victims are typically much more likely not to go to the police than victims of other crimes:

victims don't report crime to police

But reporting rates are especially low among college students. Among young non-student women, according to the new report, 67 percent didn't report their assaults to the police — that's a little higher than the average for all sexual-assault victims (which is about 65 percent) but it's about comparable. Among college students, however, 80 percent of victims didn't go to the police.

Furthermore, it doesn't look like college students are reporting assaults to college officials, either. 14 percent of nonstudents said that they didn't report their assault to the police, but did report to another official (which the survey doesn't define). But only 4 percent of students said they went to another official or administrator.

Nor do colleges seem to be connecting victims with support services more frequently. 16 percent of college students said they'd gotten assistance from a victim-service agency — roughly equal to the number of nonstudents who'd gotten help from victim services (18 percent). If sexual assault victims who have access to their colleges' resources aren't any more likely to get connected to support than victims who don't have those resources, it raises the question of whether those resources are actually being put to use.

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