The TRAP of Campus Sexual Assault Stats

campus-statsIn recent weeks, we’ve been seeing a push for college and university rankings to include sexual assault statistics in their ranking criteria (Princeton Review and US News & World Report). While we want parents and students to be as aware as possible of campus safety, looking at the campus crime statistics may not tell you much and could be very misleading.

The reality is most people are asking the wrong question. The mistake being made is that people (news outlets, politicians, and some activists) are assuming a campus with lower reports of sexual assault is a better university to attend because it is safer and/or does a better job working to reduce rape from occurring. Consider the OPPOSITE.

Looking at a campus with low sexual assault crime statistics could reflect a campus that isn’t doing enough education around sexual violence and is failing to provide support for survivors coming forward. Campuses that provide the most education on sexual assault and offer the most support for survivors are MORE LIKELY to have more survivors come forward and thus have more sexual assaults reported.

Common sense says a survivor who believes the campus will do everything in its power to properly support the survivor – is much more likely to report a sexual assault.

What do you look for regarding how a campus addresses sexual assault?  Here are some questions to ask:

  1. Call the local sexual assault crisis center in town and ask about what the campus history is of handling sexual assault cases and how survivors who come forward are treated.
  2. While talking with the local sexual assault crisis center in town, ask if the campus encourages survivors to also work with the local authorities and ask how the local authorities treat survivors.
  3. Ask Resident Assistants (RAs) on campus, “How many times a year do you facilitate educational programs for the residents on your floor addressing sexual assault, consent, and bystander intervention?
  4. Ask the campus what their percentage is of accused perpetrators being found guilty in the judicial process.
  5. Ask the campus what their percentage is of accused perpetrators being found guilty AND being EXPELLED from the campus.

What questions would you add to this list?

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