6 Reasons Why Students Don’t Report Sexual Assault

Posted by Shelley Kilpatrick on 29 July 2016 |

reporting sexual violenceResearch has shown time and time again that between 20 and 25 percent of college women are sexual assaulted. And that’s just college age women. The number of LGBTQIA students who are the victims of sexual violence is also extremely high. Plus, men are also coming forward more often to report they’ve been sexually assaulted.

What Percentage of Campus Sexual Assaults Are Reported?

With such high numbers of sexual violence, you would think that most of the students are reporting when something happens to them. But that’s just not the case. In fact, the number of students who report is dreadfully low.

Why Aren’t Students Coming Forward?

So what’s happening? Why aren’t students coming forward to report sexual assault?

A 2007 study funded by the DOJ uncovered many different reasons that have remained fairly consistent over the years. Specifically, researchers found that students:

  1. Said they did not have proof that the incident occurred
  2. Were afraid of retaliation by the perpetrator
  3. Were scared of hostile treatment by the authorities
  4. Were uncertain the authorities would consider the incident serious enough
  5. Wanted to prevent family and others from learning about it
  6. Didn’t know how to report the incident

Most startling of all though is that, “Victims may not define the event as sexual assault or report the incident because they are embarrassed, are reluctant to consider someone they know as a rapist, or do not understand the legal definition of sexual assault.”

Overall, it seems that fear and confusion are the main reasons students don’t report sexual violence. So it just makes sense to combat this with education—and there is a lot that campuses are doing to educate their students.

What Are Colleges Doing to Prevent Sexual Assault?

Here are three things colleges and universities are doing to educate students about sexual violence to encourage them to take an active role in prevention and come forward to report.

Bystander Intervention Training

One of the most promising strategies campuses are using to prevent sexual assault and encourage reporting is bystander intervention training. We’ve covered bystander intervention in more detail here if you want to learn more.

But the basic premise is that sexual violence is everyone’s responsibility, which means everyone on campus can do something to intervene and stop it, instead of remaining inactive or silent.

Redefining Consent

In order to reduce confusion and help students clearly identify what is and isn’t sexual assault, colleges are adopting new, more updated definitions of consent. For example, California one was on the first states to require colleges and universities to use affirmative consent, which means “affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity — throughout the encounter, removing ambiguity for both parties.”

Overhauling Investigation & Response Processes

Title IX coordinators are responsible for a lot of different things, including investigating allegations of sexual violence. And many colleges and universities are working hard to change investigation processes that aren’t working. Some of the specific things they are doing include:

  • Providing more training to Title IX coordinators on how to conduct an investigation
  • Reviewing and updating disciplinary processes to involve more experts
  • Increasing penalties for perpetrators of sexual violence
  • Updating their websites with more information on survivor resources
  • Additional survivor-centered training to help faculty and staff respond to students

Conclusion

The majority of instances of sexual violence are unreported. A big reason why is that students don’t know how to identify what’s happened and even when they do, they are afraid to come forward.

However, things are getting better. Colleges are universities are using promising strategies, like bystander intervention training, to encourage prevention and reporting.

To learn more about our bystander intervention training course for students, fill out the form on the right.

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