According to federal campus safety data, in 2014 the colleges and universities with the highest number of rapes on campus were the University of Connecticut and Brown University, a private Ivy League university in Providence, RI. However, sexual assault among college students (whether on or off campus) is a growing problem around the nation.
A survey involving 150,000+ students at 27 universities conducted by the Association of American Universities revealed some very disturbing numbers. What’s not surprising is that in many cases, unwanted sexual contact or even rape occurs when students are under the influence of drugs or alcohol – in other words, incapacitated.
The survey found that 23% of female college students who participated said they had been the victims of unwanted sexual contact, whether it be kissing or touching, or even rape. Almost 11% claimed they were forced into unwanted oral sex or penetration.
College females who were seniors and involved in the survey reported even higher numbers: 26% said that during their four years in college, they had been the victim of non-consensual sexual contact of some type at some point during the time period. Unfortunately, numbers soared for the University of Michigan, where it was found that 34% of female seniors had been the victims of unwanted sexual assault. Yale and Harvard came in with high numbers as well, 32% and 29% respectively.
Many of the women who were surveyed said they didn’t report the sexual assault (or even forced penetration, “rape”) in some cases because they were embarrassed, feared emotional difficulty, or simply thought the situation wasn’t serious enough to report. This brings to question, how many more victims of sexual assault are on our nation’s college campuses who haven’t reported the incidents? Victims can be men as well, and it’s really impossible to get an accurate number.
Add to the mix that alcohol and/or drugs are often involved when college students attend parties, and the topic becomes even more complicated. Men and women tend to lose their inhibitions when under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A male college student may become so inebriated or high that he does something he wouldn’t ordinarily do – forces himself on a female college student, or vice-versa. By the same token, a woman may consent to sexual contact or even intercourse while under the influence of mind-altering substances, then not remember giving consent the next day. Or, she may change her mind and claim she was sexually assaulted, knowing that she consented.
Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that many college students are victims of sexual assault. That said, it’s also a fact that many young men and women face criminal charges or sit behind bars for crimes they did not commit, their lives forever changed. What can or should be done to address the growing problem of sexual assault on college campuses?
Criminal defense attorneys who represent individuals charged with sexual assault know that innocent people are falsely accused every day. Those who are guilty should face punishment, however those who are innocent should not have to face a future that includes being under suspicion or shunned by society. Our society unfortunately tends to view those arrested for crimes as “guilty until proven innocent.” Those convicted of rape or other sex crimes often face years (or even life) behind bars, and are required to register as sex offenders which impacts employment and housing opportunities, and much more. Being sexually violated by another person is a tragedy – however being punished for a lifetime for a crime you didn’t commit is just as tragic.