What is Sexual Assault?

Let’s define the term first. According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), sexual violence is “any sexual act that is perpetrated against someone’s will.” There are four types of sexual violence: a completed sex act, an attempted (but not completed) sex act, abusive sexual contact (intentional touching either directly or through the clothing), and non-contact sexual abuse like exposing an individual through photographs and verbal harassment. It is important to define the term, because some victims are reluctant to call an incident “rape” if a weapon is not used. 
 
In a 2008 survey, 20% to 25% of women in college reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape in college.  College women are at a higher risk for sexual assault than those who do not attend college. In 1999, the National Institute of Justice studied the sexual assault polices of various campuses and found that many sexual assaults on campus remain unreported. A likely reason why that is the case is because between 80-90% of the times, the perpetrator is an acquaintance of the victim. In addition, the NIJ found that more than half the colleges they studied failed to inform students how to file criminal charges. Victims that do report the crime could be forced to participate in adjudication, which further discourages other victims to come forward. Furthermore, NIJ suggested that colleges should provide confidential reporting for victims who may have been drinking before the assault and fear punishments for violating their school’s alcohol policy. This way, at least the crime would be “counted.” Still, there are many other reasons why victims may refuse to report sexual assaults, like psychological guilt, that cannot be resolved by policies.
 
NIJ offers a few suggestions as to how schools can promote reporting, starting with services for victims, clear law enforcement response protocols, teamwork between campus and community, and publicity about past crimes. As mentioned before, confidential and anonymous reporting may also encourage both victims and friends of those victims to report assaults.
 
Sources:
https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/205521.pdf
http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/sexualviolence/definitions.html