Sexual assault is under-reported on college campuses because many young people that make up the majority of the college population are confused about how to go about reporting a sexaul assault. On college campuses alone, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men will be sexaully assaulted at some point while in school. With such high statistics of sexual violence, one would think that most of the students are reporting when something happens to them. But that is simply not the case. In fact, the number of students who report is dreadfully low with more than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses not reporting. A 2007 study funded by the US Department Of Justice uncovered various different reasons that have remained fairly consistent over the years about why college students don’t report sexaul assault. Specifically, researchers found that one the six most prevelent reasons college students don’t report sexaul assaults on campus being that they didn’t know how to report the incident. With sexaul assault for college students being only 1.2 times less likely to occur than for non-students, it is important that colleges foster an environment that is willing to listen to its students concerns and provide a clear avenue for reporting. In order to prevent the continuation of sexaul assaults going unreported, students must become educated on how to report incidents to their school.
One of the main reason students are confused about how to report sexual assault on campus is because resources for how to do so are not advertised enough to be common knowledge. An undergraduate research study done at JMU titled, ‘Assessing Understanding of Sexual Assault Resources and Response Among Health Sciences Students,’ found that generally, if students are aware of resources to which they can turn to for guidance through the possible steps to take following a sexual assault, they are more likely to report one. Although this might be the case, not all colleges give enough attention to these resources for their students to have easy access to them. Overall, students were able to identify sexual assault survivor resources available at JMU; however, unless students were part of residence life (meaning they worked as a Resident Assistant and had undergone training to do so) they did not know very much about what the services actually entailed. If schools do not educate the student body as a whole about the available services for support in reporting sexual assault, then the gap between sexual assaults that occur and those that are reported will only grow. It is even possible that if students were familiar with how to report and file a sexual assault swiftly and easily, then perpetrators would be less confident that they can commit an assault on campus.
Although there are laws present that require colleges to provide help for sexual assault victims, colleges do not always broadcast their resources; meaning the student body will not know to utilize them. The Clery Act is a piece of legislation that aims to provide information that may impact the safety of college students. Under this act, colleges and universities are required under the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations to provide resources to sexual assault victims, including counseling, medical care, and campus education programs. Although this law enforces regulations with the intention of protecting students before and after an assault occurs, not all colleges comply on a microscopic level. For example, in 2015 a campus climate survey was conducted by the Association of American Universities, which included 27 of its member campuses. Findings revealed that “about a quarter of the students generally believe they are knowledgeable about the resources available related to sexual assault and misconduct.” Over 150,000 students from 27 participating institutions took this survey, but 75% of them were not aware of their schools’ resources relating to sexaul assault reporting and support. Even the best-developed program will be ineffective if 75% of the students on campus do not know about it. If we want sexual assaults on college campuses to be reported more often, then colleges need to implement ways to make their resources better known.
Colleges can be effective in encourage students to come forward about sexual assault when it occurs if students are well educated about resources for reporting early on in their academic careers. In the same JMU study previously mentioned, researchers found that “More than 75% of sexual assault cases were never reported using official systems of reporting” and that although very few students reported through official means, “most students told a friend”. Students need resources and tools readily available to them, that way sexual assaults will not go unreported. My time as an Elon University student has consisted of freshman student orientation, resident hall meetings at the beginning of each academic year, and a mandatory introductory class known as Elon 101, which provides students with an understanding of the honor code and individual graduation plan. Although all these activities involved a form of a teacher representing the university and embodied a group of peers, there was never any mention of informing students about the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses or how to handle such an incident. Colleges could take advantage of these events that provide learning experiences to incoming students by mentioning helpful tips for staying safe on campus, how to navigate reporting an incident to the college, or providing direction to support outlets for victims. Based on the statistics that we know, colleges need to take a more forward approach in addressing the likelihood that a sexual assault will occur. By being more adamant about expressing their supportive resources, less cases will go unreported.