Most U.S. colleges — 89% — reported zero incidents of rape in 2015, according to American Association of University Women (AAUW) analysis of data provided by schools to the U.S. Department of Education.
Reported is the key word. Just because a school had no rape reports doesn’t mean no rapes happened.
AAUW’s findings very likely do not reflect the true state of sexual violence among college students, since a majority of incidents go unreported. In fact, a 2014 report by the U.S. Department of Justice estimated that 80% of student victims don’t report their rape or sexual assault to police, based on data from 1995–2013.
Still, the 2015 AAUW report isn’t as rosy as the previous year’s. In 2014, 91% of schools reported zero rapes, based on annual crime data disclosed by more than 11,000 colleges and universities.
Other studies have yielded a different picture of sexual violence on campuses. More than one in five students said they had experienced sexual abuse, along with physical abuse and threats of physical violence, a 2011 survey by Fifth & Pacific and Knowledge Networks of more than 500 college young adults aged 18-29 found.
Why the apparent disparity between reported and actual numbers? Victims have numerous reasons for not reporting their assaults. Twelve percent of victims felt their assaults were not important enough to report to police, according to the DOJ data. Other reasons cited for not reporting include personal reasons and fear of reprisal.
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