Sexual Violence at College

Sexual Violence at College – Awareness is up, but so is sexual violence.

According to research studies, awareness is increasing among college students (from 2015 – 2019) about what sexual violence is, and the many forms it takes. But in spite of an increased awareness or what constitutes sexual violence (as well as the inability to give consent), instances of sexual violence continue to increase on college campuses.


The following statistics are from the report AAU Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct:

  • The overall rate of nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force or inability to consent since the student enrolled at the school was 13%.
  • More than 1 in 4 undergraduate women reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact since enrolling in school.
  • For the schools that participated in both the 2015 and 2019 surveys, the rate of nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force or inability to consent increased from 2015 to 2019 by 3 percent for undergraduate women, 2.4 percent for graduate and professional women, and 1.4 percent for undergraduate men.
  • For schools that participated in both the 2015 and 2019 surveys, there were significant increases in student reports of their knowledge of the definition of sexual assault and other sexual misconduct, where there were increases of 11.5 percentage points for undergraduate women and 12.4 percentage points for undergraduate men.
  • Undergraduate members of the LGBTQ community as well as female students reported having the highest rates of other forms of sexual misconduct.
  • Among undergraduate LGBTQ students, 65.1 percent reported experiencing harassing behavior since first enrolling at the school, 21.5 percent with partners reported intimate partner violence (IPV), and 15.2 percent stalking.
  • Among undergraduate women 59.2, 14.1, and 10.0 percent experienced harassing behavior, IPV, and stalking, respectively.
  • 65.6 percent of students involved in the survey reported it was “very” or “extremely” likely that school officials would take a report of a sexual assault seriously. However, among those who reported an experience of nonconsensual sexual contact by force or by the inability to consent, only 45% of those people felt the school officials would take a report of sexual assault seriously.


What is Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence is any form of unwanted, or non-consensual sexual contact.

Some Common Acts (but not all) of Sexual Violence Include:

  • Some Common Acts (but not all) of Sexual Violence Include:
  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Stalking
  • Street Harassment
  • Acquaintance rape
  • Marital or Intimate partner rape
  • Unwanted sexual contact/touching
  • Sexual harassment
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Showing one’s genitals or naked body to other(s) without consent
  • Sending sexually explicit images without consent
  • Masturbating in public
  • Voyeurism (Watching someone in a private act without their knowledge or permission)
  • Initiating sexual contact when a person does not have the ability to consent

Information Regarding Sexual Violence on College Campuses

More studies need to be conducted, but there is evidence that college students are most likely to become victims of sexual violence:

  • During the first 4 semesters of school
  • During September, October, and November

Some experts have begun calling this “the red zone.” This is a period when students may be away from home for the first time and in a new environment. There are a lot of parties, and over 60% of victims of sexual assault at parties were both off campus, and consuming alcohol.

Many students in this window have not received training in either sexual violence prevention or bystander intervention tactics, despite this being the time they are most likely to become victims of sexual violence or be in the position of a bystander who may be able to take preventative measures or lend aid to a potential victim.

Title IX is Not Just About Sexual Discrimination.

Did you know that Title IX also covers sexual violence and is not just about sexual discrimination?

If you didn’t know, you are not alone. Title IX also covers sexual violence and all schools or universities that receive federal funding (which is almost all of them) must comply with Title IX or face losing federal funding.

It’s critical for educational institutions to take the necessary steps to ensure they are compliant with Title IX and adhere to the law in order to protect their students and faculty. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it also protects them from potential liability.

The bottom line is that Title IX and its mandate to address sexual assault on campus must be taken seriously and all schools must take steps to ensure they are in compliance with the law. Failure to do so can have serious consequences, both legally and financially. It’s important for educational institutions to take proactive steps to address and prevent sexual assault on campus in order to ensure a safe and equitable environment for all students.

Federal law requires that universities must provide many things to an individual who is reporting a sexual assault including:

  • Responding promptly to the report
  • Informing you of the policies & procedures of the reporting process
  • Conduct an investigation
  • Offering you confidential counseling & support services both on and off campus

All universities that receive federal funding are required to report their crime statistics. This information is made publicly accessible through the university’s annual security report.

What If I Have Reported an Assault to the Title IX Office and They Are Not Taking Action?

If you have reported or attempted to report being involved in an act of sexual violence, and you feel your Title IX office is not taking appropriate action, you are not obligated to stop there.

In fact, even if you have reported it to the Title IX office, you are not obligated to stop there. Too many times college officials have tried to “keep these problems in house” instead of contacting the appropriate authorities and taking swift action. But you are not obligated to stop at the Title IX office, nor are you obligated to listen to or follow the directives of any college affiliate, employee, or staff member. And until colleges and educational institutions change their approach to reports of sexual violence, you should be aware of steps you can take to advocate for yourself.

You can contact an attorney who can advise you of your rights and get involved to help you. Colleges and Universities have been receiving a lot of press lately about their failure to act or investigate cases of sexual violence that are reported to them. Several of them have become involved in lawsuits because they failed to act. Often people don’t take action until it costs them something – like losing hundreds of millions of dollars in a lawsuit and being publicly embarrassed by their actions (or lack of action). Lawyers are the people who make that happen.

Plus – even if you are not interested in a lawsuit, having an attorney advocating for you tends to get things moving much faster than if you go it alone. Unfortunately, often legal departments at universities don’t get too interested in things until an attorney contacts them. But after your attorney contacts them, you can expect swift action on their part. They know once a lawyer is involved, things can go downhill for them quickly – so never hesitate to contact a lawyer to advocate for you. Even if you’ve reported it already, having an attorney advocate for you makes people take you seriously.

To Help Begin Sexual Violence Prevention on College Campuses and Educational Centers, check out the ACHA Toolkit.

For more information about sexual violence on college campuses, please visit:

The Center for Public Integrity posts various articles and information about campus assault:

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center carries a wide array of resources for survivors and campus administrators about the laws, statistics, and prevention efforts:

Learn more about Title XI Training for Universities and Colleges provided by WOAR.

Learn more about the Jeanne Cleary Act, a consumer protection act enacted in 1990:

Help is Available

You are not alone. WOAR is here for you. If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual violence and would like guidance and/or support, please call our HOTLINE at: 215-985-3333 – all calls are confidential, and you can remain anonymous.