The rates of rape and sexual assault among women age 18-24 were found to be 1.2 times higher among women not in college in comparison to those enrolled in school between 1995 and 2013, according to recent data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The report, "Rape and Sexual Assault Among College-age Females, 1995–2013," used data compiled from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), looking at the relationship between the victim and the offender, whether or not a weapon was involved, the location, whether the police were informed, and victim demographics.
The department found that women who were not students accounted for more than twice the annual number of rape and sexual assault victims, accounting for 65,700 cases, when compared to students, who numbered 31,300 cases. No difference was found between the two groups for 2013.
In addition, students were found to be less likely to report instances of rape and sexual assault to police (80%) than those who were not students (67%). More than one-quarter of students (26%) and 23% of women who were not students believed the incidents to be a personal matter and did not want to involve police, while 20% of each group feared that it would happen again. Students were more likely to feel that the incident was not important enough to go to police with.
According to Stacy Teicher Khadaroo for the Christian Science Monitor, this could be due to a historic trend for authorities to be more likely to go after offenders who were strangers, whereas many unreported cases were found to be involving someone the victim knew.
Although college students were less likely than their non-student peers to become a victim of rape or sexual assault, their average annual rate was still higher than among females in other age brackets, including 12 to 17-year-olds and 25 or older.
In addition, one third of all rape and sexual assault cases involving college students were found to be a complete rape in comparison to 40% of non-student cases. Most cases in both groups (56% of student cases and 52% of non-student cases) were classified as attempted rape or other sexual assault.
In other findings, the report discovered that about 80% of victims knew their attacker, with most cases (51% for students and 50% for non-students) taking place while taking part in leisure activities away from home. About 1 in 10 cases for both students and non-students involved the offender using a weapon.
While the report focuses on instances involving female victims, awareness for male victims is growing, as 17% of student rape and sexual assault cases involved a male victim, and 4% of non-student cases.
Laura Dunn, founder of SurvJustice, a legal advocacy group for sexual assault victims, said that more research was needed into the reasoning behind committing the crimes, adding that while the statistics are useful, "anytime you are only studying victimization and not perpetration, you are limited in your ability to be helpful in truly solving this problem."