One in seven female students are victims of serious sexual assault or serious physical violence while attending college, a new study reveals.
The number of female university students sexually assaulted, stalked or sexually harassed shocked researchers in the study released Wednesday by the National Union of Students.
“This report is a wake-up call,” said Olivia Bailey, an officer of the NUS.
“The picture that we have revealed is disturbing. We must act now to break the silence: violence against women students is widespread and serious.”
The number of sexual crimes happening on college campuses continues to increase while the assaults creep under the radar of many reports on the issue. According to the new study, 68 percent of female college students interviewed have been subject to verbal or physical sexual harassment and nearly one in four experienced unwanted sexual contact.
Statistics show that very few students reported their experiences, either to their institution or to the police. In the category of serious sexual assault, only 10 percent reported it to the police, and more than four in 10 told no one about the attack.
“We decided to undertake this research because women aged 16–24 have a higher risk of experiencing domestic violence,” said Bailey. “But there appeared to be little awareness of this amongst students.”
According to NUS’ “Hidden Marks” survey, more than 50 percent of the students interviewed did not report the assault to the police because they felt ashamed or embarrassed, and 43 percent because they thought they would be blamed for what happened.
“Women students can be left feeling like they are to blame for the violence committed against them. Clearly, not enough is being done to encourage women students to report all instances of assault or harassment to their institutions or to the police," Bailey said.
Sandra Horley, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Charity Refuge, said the new report deeply saddened her to hear that so many women students are experiencing violence and harassment during the course of their studies, and that so very few feel able to report the crimes against them.
“It is vital that universities create an environment where women feel confident to speak out against abuse," Horley said.
"Women students need to know where they can seek help, and must feel sure that their reports will be taken seriously. Women have the right to enjoy university life, focus on their studies and plan for their futures, without fear of intimidation of violence.”
Did you know?
- Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.
- Someone known to the victim commits approximately two thirds of assaults.
- 15 out of 16 rapists will never spend a day in jail.
- 38 percent of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.
The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network suggests that while you can never completely protect yourself from sexual assault, there are some things you can do to help reduce your risk of being assaulted.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you to find a way to get out of a bad situation.
- Try to avoid isolated areas. It is more difficult to get help if no one is around.
- Walk with purpose. Even if you don’t know where you are going, act like you do.
- Trust your instincts. If a situation or location feels unsafe or uncomfortable, it probably isn’t the best place to be.
- Try not to load yourself down with packages or bags as this can make you appear more vulnerable.
- Make sure your cell phone is with you and charged and that you have cab money.
- Don't allow yourself to be isolated with someone you don’t trust or someone you don’t know.
- Avoid putting music headphones in both ears so that you can be more aware of your surroundings, especially if you are walking alone.