Ninety percent of colleges reported zero campus rapes in 2014, yet one in five women say they were sexually assaulted while in college, Kelly Field reports for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
On Monday, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) released a report that noted the low rates of rape reports under the Clery Act. Field spoke with several experts about the disparity.
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1. Students remain uncomfortable reporting their rapes to the school.
The number of institutions that did not report a single rape suggests students do not feel comfortable coming forward about attacks, AAUW argued. So while some schools made major efforts to support survivors, "others have not," the association said in their analysis.
"A school with zero reported rapes isn't a safer school: It's a school that isn't helping victims understand where or how to report, or is flat-out discouraging them from doing so," said Dana Bolger, co-director of victims'-rights group Know Your IX, in an email to the Chronicle.
Many schools still do not have a Title IX coordinator, assault-prevention plan, or confidential victims' advocate, says Tara Richards, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Baltimore.
But even at institutions that provide all of those services, victims may remain reluctant to come forward.
"So many victims have been pushed away that it's not going to be an overnight success," says Peter Lake, director of Stetson University's Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy. "It's going to take a generation."
2. Students may be too traumatized or ashamed to report their rapes to the school.
While almost 25% of female undergraduates say they were victims of sexual assault or misconduct, less than 33% of that group went on to report the attack, according to a survey by the Association of American Universities. Some said they were too embarrassed while others said they did not think their attack was serious enough.
"There are a whole range of reasons why a student may not make a formal report, many of which are beyond the school's control," says Howard Kallem, Duke University's Title IX compliance director.
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3. Systemic miscounting or exemptions keep federal counts low.
Only sexual assaults that happen on campus count under the Clery Act, so a student attacked at an off-campus party or apartment does not count. This means that nonresidential campuses are unlikely to have any reported rapes.
Alternatively, a lack of coordination may have kept reported rapes off the official count. The low figures suggest schools are not training campus security authorities correctly or that counseling centers are not correctly tracking data, says Laura Dunn, executive director of victims' advocacy group SurvJustice.
The difference in the figures supports the case for more campus climate surveys, researchers and victim advocates told Field. And colleges should charge a senior administrator with making sure the data are correct, says Brett Sokolow, a risk-manager adviser.
"Our days of ineptitude have to be done," he says. "Congress is going to shove it down our throat if we don't do it ourselves" (Field, Chronicle of Higher Education, 11/25).
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