Violence on Campus

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The following article is courtesy of Inside Higher Ed.

Each year, nearly 6 percent of female college students report a rape or attempted rape. Nine percent of men and 11 percent of women say they seriously considered suicide and 1.3 percent reported one attempt.

Thirteen percent of female students report being stalked. And just 25 percent of all crimes on campuses were reported to a law enforcement authority of any kind. 

Those are a few of the dizzying blitz of statistics contained in "Campus Violence White Paper," which will be released soon by the American College Health Association. Inside Higher Ed received a final draft of the report, which was written by Joetta Carr, an associate professor at Western Michigan University's Counseling Center and head of the association's Campus Violence Committee.

The report aims to offer an analytical portrait of the occurrence and causes of violence on college campuses nationally. It makes it clear that colleges are far from being the peaceful oases that college officials sometimes portray them as. It says that "acts of violence have continued to force U.S. colleges and universities to address the dangerous and alarming violent events that send shockwaves throughout many campuses and compromise students' and employees' health and safety."

Acknowledged from the start is that calculating the true rate of crime on campuses is difficult, partly because the formal methods of reporting them -- most notably, the Campus Security Act -- are widely viewed as underreporting crime. "Many college health professionals know that the victimization patterns that we see are not included in any official statistics, for various reasons, and it may be up to us to solve the problem," the report says.

Citing a survey's finding that just 25 percent of campus crimes were reported to any authority, the report suggests an array of reasons: embarrassment on the part of victims (particularly regarding sex-based crimes), lack of understanding about what constitutes a crime, or a feeling that the incidents were too minor.

As a result of this underreporting to authorities, the college health association's white paper draws much of its conclusions from surveys of students. Among the findings it presents:

  • Students aged 18 to 24 report about 526,000 violent crimes each year, according to the Violent Victimization of College Students report. Of those, 128,000 "involved a weapon or serious injury to the victim."
  • 5.8 pct of female students reported having been raped or suffering an attempted rape in the 2003-4 year, and 11.9 reporting "unwanted touching," according to the college health association's National College Health Assessment.
  • Another study found that 13.1 percent of female students said they had been stalked. This number was greater than among comparably aged people in the general population, in part because of students' "close proximity" to each other and the "large amount of unstructured discretionary time" that students had.
  • The report cites several major factors underlying campus violence, including the use of alcohol, racial and ethnic tensions, and a "sports culture" that "can promote competition, aggression, and male privilege."

Going forward, the report suggests several recommendations that colleges should consider to stem the level of campus violence. They include: offering dorms that bar alcohol and smoking, imposing tougher penalties on students found to have engaged in violence, adopting policies that encourage rather than deter bystanders from coming forward to report crimes they witness, and disclosing the presence of registered sex offenders on campuses, which has proven controversial in some communities.

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