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Sexual Assault Shockingly Under-Reported on College Campuses

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Great news: there was virtually no sexual assault on 45 percent of college campuses with over 1,000 students between 2010 and 2012! But if that number sounds too good to be true… that’s because it is.

According to Emily Shire of the Daily Beast, since the White House reports that one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college, it is "statistically impossible for a university not to have suffered any incidences of forcible sexual offenses."

So then how do so many schools have zero-rape campuses? Well, the federal government requires colleges and universities to self-report their number of “alleged forcible sexual offenses” under a law known as the Clery Act. So when a school doesn’t report any incidents, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any occurring. There’s a problem: either people aren’t reporting them or the school isn’t adequately tracking them.

"There are some accusations of schools under-reporting or misrepresenting. Rather than labeling something as sexual assault, they may label it just as assault so it looks less severe,"Tracey Vitchers, a spokesperson for Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER), said.

Students also may be afraid to come forward or may not know where to go for help.

Unfortunately, this means that it becomes very difficult to gauge the campus safety of specific schools. For example, in 2012 Barnard College in New York reported zero incidents of sexual assault, while Columbia University, which is literally across the street, reported 14.  

According to Jezebel, professors and activists have created a map that overlaid the Clery data with estimates of how many students, statistically, we would “expect to see” based on the actual occurrence of campus sexual assault.

It’s bizarre, but true: the closer the reports from the Clery Act come to these “expected” assaults, the more progress we will have made. Why? Because it means both students and administrators will be actively addressing the problem.

"Of all the co-ed residential colleges across the nation," Occidental professor Caroline Heldman told Jezebel, "there isn't a single one that's exempt [from the campus rape epidemic], so the schools with the higher numbers are actually schools where the survivors feel more comfortable coming forward. It's a sad fact that we want higher [reporting] numbers."

What do you think should be done to improve the accuracy of these reports, collegiettes? Do you think your school does a good job of making students feel like they can come forward or get help?


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