protest against campus sexual assault

In new study, 1 in 3 college women had experienced sexual assault by sophomore year

A new study published in The Journal of Adolescent Health confirms that about 1 in 5 college women experience rape or attempted rape on campus. Professor Kate Carey of Brown University’s School of Public Health surveyed 483 women at a university in upstate New York, and just over 18 percent of them said they had been raped, or had had an attempt at rape perpetrated against them, in their first year at college. 

Carey distinguishes between “incapacitated rape” (attempted or completed) and “forcible rape” (attempted or completed). She found that during their first year of college, 15 percent of women reported the former and 9 percent reported the latter. It gets worse. Once Carey asked about lifetime prevalence of sexual violence — from the age of 14 until the start of sophomore year — 26 percent said they had experienced incapacitated rape, and 22 percent had experienced forcible rape.

That’s over one in three women in a college class who’ve experienced sexual violence by the time their college careers are one quarter over.

Those eager to underestimate the severity of the campus sexual violence problem will argue that this school might not be representative of the nation’s campuses, and certainly there have been many efforts over the last decade to debunk findings that about 1 in 5 college women experience sexual assault. While these new numbers are the figures for just one school and the prevalence likely varies across campuses, Carey notes, “The estimates that have been generated over recent years have been remarkably consistent, if not in the precise numbers, then in the general proportion of the population.”

The Huffington Post reports:

Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations at American Association of University Women, said Carey’s study shows the problem of sexual violence among young women is “probably even worse than we thought.”

“My mind boggles a bit at the statistic that they found,” Maatz said, adding that Carey’s data “is critical” to efforts to address campus rape.

Carey’s conclusion? “Both incapacitated and forcible sexual assaults and rape have reached epidemic levels among college women. Interventions to address sexual violence on campus are urgently needed.”

No shit.

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Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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