Survey Shows Why So Many College-Aged Women Don't Report Rape

Rape college campusesAP Photo/Betsy BlaneyTexas Tech freshman Regan Elder helps drape a bed sheet with the message ‘No means No’ over the university’s seal on the Lubbock campus, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014.

The US Bureau of Justice Statistics released a survey Thursday finding that between 1995 and 2013, women between the ages of 18 and 24 had the highest rate of rape and sexual assault among all age groups.

While 18-to-24-year-old women who didn’t attend college were more likely to say they’d been raped, college students that age were far less likely to report their rapes to their authorities. From the report (emphasis ours):

For the period 1995 — 2013, rape and sexual assault victimizations against female students (80%) were more likely to go unreported to police, compared to victimizations against nonstudents (67%) … Regardless of enrollment status, rape and sexual assault victimizations were more likely to go unreported than other types of violent crime …

The NCVS [National Crime Victim Survey] does not directly collect information about whether victims reported to other officials or administrators. The reasons for not reporting a rape or sexual assault victimization to police varied somewhat between students and nonstudents. A greater percentage of nonstudent (19%) than student (9%) victims stated that they did not report to police because the police would not or could not do anything to help. Nonstudent victims were also more likely to state that they had reported to a different official.

Student victims (12%) were more likely to state that the victimization was not important enough to report, compared to nonstudent victims (5%). About a quarter of student (26%) and nonstudent (23%) victims who did not report to police believed the incident was a personal matter, and 1 in 5 (20% each) stated a fear of reprisal.

The survey comes amid a heated national conversation on the rape of college-aged women and the White House’s campaign to end sexual assault on America’s campuses. It also comes after the veracity of a Rolling Stone article about a brutal gang-rape at the University of Virginia was seriously called into question.

While the reporting in that article was flawed, the story highlighted a real problem: UVA is one of dozens of schools in the US that’s under investigation for how it handles sexual-assault cases. Colleges often handle allegations of rape internally, and we now have more information about why so many college-aged women are loath to bring allegations of sexual assault to the police.


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