The risks of rape on college campuses
10 tips to help keep your college student safe from sexual assault
A young woman begins her freshman year in college. She’s nervous, but gets invited to an “invite-only” party by a senior guy.He offers her something to drink to calm her nerves.
The drink is a deceptively sweet punch, powerfully spiked with alcohol and renders the girl incapacitated.
Unfortunately, this occurs far too often among college campuses across the nation and the above scenario is one favorited by serial rapists. In a 2002 study on “undetected rapists” on a college campus, researchers found that 6 percent of the college men surveyed were serial rapists with an average of six victims, and most began assaulting girls in high school.
In the first year of college, especially the first few weeks, a young female is at greatest risk of being raped or sexually assaulted. Female students ages 18-24 have a high rate of victimization, about 6 per 1,000 assaulted. In 80 percent of cases the offender is known to the victim, usually a “friend” or casual acquaintance.
That’s why rape or sexual assault usually occurs at or near the female college student’s home (38 percent) or a friend or relative (29 percent). Other area of concerns for young women are the parking lot or garage and in open areas or on public transportation.
Here’s what we know about the young men who are responsible for the bulk of rape or sexual assault:
- Men age 21-29 make up 51 percent of offenders.
- The majority (63 percent) are Caucasian.
- Ten percent of offenders used a weapon during a sexual assault.
- In about 47 percent of cases, the offender was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
So why does this keep happening to young women?
Many of the men who commit these atrocious acts are never caught. Rape and sexual assault of female college students goes unreported an astonishing 80 percent of the time.
One important clue for women starting college is to notice how a man and his friends talk about violence against women. Stay away from men who have peer support for objectifying and victimizing women because this is a big risk factor for him to commit sexual assault.
Stay safe with these tips from RAINN:
- Know the campus so you know safe routes to where you need to go (well-lit walkways with emergency phones). Have the campus security number in your cell phone, and know where the campus health center and police station are.
- Stay alert when you’re walking around alone (no headphones blocking your hearing). Go with a friend, or ask campus security for an escort.
- Keep your location private by disabling geolocation services on social media.
- Trust no one – at least for a while. Get to know people before you let your guard down.
- Keep your phone fully charged before going out, memorize a couple friend’s (or campus security) numbers in case your phone dies. Memorize the address to your dorm. If you drive, have a spare key hidden, a full tank of gas and emergency supplies (i.e. jumper cables).
- Lock your door and windows when you’re asleep and when you leave a room. If the main door is propped open, tell security.
- Watch out for your friends when you're out together.. Never leave anyone stranded..
- Protect your drink: Watch it being made and poured, and if you have to leave the drink unattended, toss it and get another one. Don’t drink the punch – you didn’t see them make it!
- Leave any situation where you feel more tired or drunk than you should. Seek medical help immediately because you may have been drugged.
- Lie or make up any excuse that will get you to safety. You are the most important person, and if you feel uncomfortable, pressured, or threatened, do whatever you have to do to get out of there.
To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE(4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.
Dyann Daley, M.D., is the executive director of Cook Children’s new Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment. and an anesthesiologist at the medical center. Through efforts such as providing education and support to families of all socioeconomic backgrounds and training doctors and first responders to recognize possible signs of abuse and neglect, the center aims to reduce Tarrant County’s alarmingly high number of known cases.