Nearly 20% Of Female College Freshmen Are Victims Of Rape

During their first year on campus, an estimated 18.6 percent of freshman women experience rape or attempted rape

May 20, 2015 at 4:32 AM ET

During their first year on campus, an estimated 18.6 percent of freshman women were the victims of rape or attempted rape, according to a new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. “Sexual violence on campus has reached epidemic levels,” the authors write. “Interventions to reduce sexual violence on campus are urgently needed.”

Prior studies have uncovered similarly sobering statistics, but this paper is the first to clearly differentiate between rape and other forms of sexual assault within a large population (nearly 500 women), while controlling for a specific year in college. The result is a rare, statistically sound snapshot of campus rape as it spirals out of control, especially when it comes to female freshmen.

College students are often most vulnerable in their freshman year, explains coauthor Kate Carey, professor of behavioral sciences at Brown University. “People are usually moving away from home for the first time,” she said in a prepared statement. “They are experimenting with a lot of freedoms, including the use of alcohol and other drugs, and learning how to live by themselves.”

Indeed, intoxicants play a major role in the majority of these campus rapes. Carey and her team found that 15.4 percent of freshman women were raped while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Altogether, the study suggests, 37 percent of female college sophomores have experienced at least one rape or attempted rape since they were 14 years old—over one-third of all female students.

The study is based on self-reports from 483 women, all from a single college, which introduces a fair amount of potential error into the data. Self reports aren’t always reliable metrics, and a sample drawn solely from one college is probably not representative of all college campuses. Nonetheless, the numbers should give us pause. The researchers suggest colleges crack down on drug and alcohol abuse, a leading cause of rape on campus, and provide more counseling services for students.

Read More:

Nearly One In Five Women Are Raped In Their Lifetime (Huffington Post)
The Hard Truth About Girl-On-Guy Rape (Vocativ)