Late last week, a Special Report on Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females (“Report”), for the period 1995-2013, was issued. The results are based on information taken from the U.S. Department of Justice (Bureau of Justice Statistics’) National Crime Victimization Survey (“NCVS”). Some of the results reflect notable differences from two other recent surveys studying rape and sexual assault in the general college age population – the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (“NISVS”) and the Campus Sexual Assault Study (“CSA”) – which the Report attributes to differences in the context and scope of these three surveys (the NCVS is a survey about crime while the NISVS and CSA surveys are presented in the context of public health); in definitions used; in how questions are worded; and in mode and response rates. However, a key element of the NCVS study is that it compares responses between “students” and “non-students,” while the other surveys do not. As a result, despite any questions that may be raised about the differences in gross outcomes when compared to the NISVS and CSA surveys, the NCVS’ comparative information based on student status should be unaffected by methodology differences.
Among the results of this Report:
- From 1997 to 2013, college age females (those ages 18-24) had higher rates of rape and sexual assault than females in other age groups (4.3 victimizations per 1,000 compared to 1.4 for females 12-17 and 25 or older)
- And, for the 1995-2013 period, nonstudent college age females were 1.2 times more likely to experience rape and sexual assault victimization than students in the same age range, with the rate of completed rape 1.5 times higher among nonstudents;
- For that same time period, nonstudent college age females were 1.6 times more likely to experience victimization across all types of violent crime than their student counterparts;
- Rape and sexual assault victimization was more likely to occur at or near the victim’s home for nonstudents (50% of the time) than students (38% of the time), but more likely to occur at or near the home of a friend/relative/acquaintance of a student (29% of the time) than a nonstudent (17% of the time);
- The rate at which a weapon was involved was about the same for students (11%) and nonstudents (12%);
- College age victims knew their offender at about the same 80% rate regardless of their student status, although for students the offender was more likely (50% of the time) to be a well-known or casual acquaintance than for nonstudents (37% of the time), while the offender was more likely to be an intimate partner (a former or current spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend) for nonstudents (34% of the time) than for students (24% of the time);
- In the overwhelming majority of cases, there was a single offender (95% of the time in student victimizations and 92% of the time in nonstudent cases);
- The age of the offenders was also similar regardless of student status: for students, 51% of offenders were 21-29 and 23% were 30 or older, while for nonstudents 53% of offenders were 21-29 and 23% were 30 or older;
- In the case of students, it was believed in 47% of the cases that the offender was under the influence of alcohol or drugs and in only 25% of the incidents was that not believed to be the case (the rest were unknown), while among nonstudents, offenders were believed to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs 40% of the time and not so in 36% of the incidents;
- The results showed that students were less likely to report to the police (reporting in 20% of the cases) than nonstudents (reporting in 33% of the cases);
- Among the reasons for not reporting: it was considered a personal matter (26% for students, 23% for nonstudents), it was not important enough to the victim (12% for students, 5% for nonstudents), the victim did not think police could or would help (9% for students and 19% for nonstudents), the victim did not want to get the offender in trouble (10% for each), and the victim feared reprisal (20% for each);
- There was little difference in the (very low) proportion of student (16%) and nonstudent (18%) victims who received assistance from a victim services agency;
- For the period, there was no significant difference in the victimization rates of student and nonstudent rapes and sexual assaults among Black non-Hispanics, Hispanics, or persons of other races, but the rate of victimization among White non-Hispanic females was 1.4 times higher for nonstudents (rate of 9.2 per 1,000) than White non-Hispanic students (6.7 per 1,000);
- The rate of victimization was 1.6 times greater among nonstudents in the 18-19 age group than for students in that group, 1.5 times higher for nonstudents in the 20-21 age group compared to students, but there was a slightly higher victimization rate among students (6.0 per 1,000) than nonstudents (5.4 per 1,000) in the 22-24 age group;
- Females students in the South had the lowest victimization rate (4.7 per 1,000), while the Northeast was at 5.2, the West was at 5.9 and the Midwest was at a much higher rate of 8.3. For nonstudents, the rate for the South was 6.5, the Northeast was 4.1, the West was 8.0 and the Midwest was, again the highest, at 11.0;
- In urban areas, nonstudents had a victimization rate that was 1.3 times higher than students (8.7 vs. 6.6); in suburban areas the rates were the same (6.0); and the victimization rate for nonstudents was almost twice that of students (8.8 vs. 4.6) in rural areas.
The numbers contained in the Report are troubling on many levels – whether it is the overall level of sexual assault and violence, the low level of reporting by victims, or the even lower level of assistance secured from victim services agencies. About the only thing the numbers don’t demonstrate is that a college age female student is at greater risk than a nonstudent. While the Report indicates that a female college aged student is marginally “safer” than her nonstudent counterpart, there is still much more that needs to be done – on campus and off – to combat rape and sexual assault.