Prevalence of Campus Rape: Perspectives on Risk Management

Prevalence of Campus Rape: Perspectives on Risk Management

Uta M. Stelson (Wayne State University Law School, USA) and Theresa Neimann (Oregon State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4141-8.ch020
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Most administrators of colleges and universities are aware of the statistics about the prevalence of campus sexual assault and rape. Campus sexual assault and rape have the potential for ruining the lives of both victims and perpetrators. The authors suggest that educators, administrators, and strategic leadership teams need to understand how social norms theory, sports, and rape culture play into the prevalence of campus sexual assault and rape on students' ability to thrive in and complete college and the need to adopt a proactive stance whereby they can help to offset the negative outcomes for the students involved while at the same time focusing on the legal and risk management impact of neglecting to establish and/or non-enforcement of policies to both prevent and address campus sexual assault and rape. Many educators and administrators fail to understand the potential costs of Title IX violations and benefits to colleges and universities from the violence against women laws, especially the Amended Clery Act. Lastly, recommendations are forthcoming in helping leaders and risk management employees be proactive and strategically plan to reduce and address the occurrences of campus sexual assault and rapes.
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“The fact is, rape is utterly commonplace in all our cultures. It is part of the fabric of everyday life, yet we all act as if it’s something shocking and extraordinary whenever it hits the headlines. We remain silent, and so we condone it…Until rape, and the structures – sexism, inequality, tradition – that make it possible, are part of our dinner-table conversation with the next generation, it will continue. Is it polite and comfortable to talk about it? No. Must we anyway? Yes. To protect our children, we must talk to them about rape.”

Desmond Tutu

The issue of campus rape has exploded, with dozens of schools, including Harvard Law School, under investigation. A 2009 study by the Center for Public Integrity found that between 1998 and 2008, the federal Department of Education (DOE) placed disciplinary actions against just five universities out of 24 complaints. Rape on college campuses has created a crisis of colossal proportions in higher education. It not only affects persistence and completion rates for the victims but can also have life-changing affects for the perpetrators.

The issue of “violence against women” also does not wait until male students are college-age. Take, for example, the case of Owen Labrie: Labrie attended the prestigious New Hampshire Episcopal college prep school, St. Paul’s, whose alumni included Secretary of State John Kerry and former FBI director and former independent prosecutor investigation President Donald Trump, Robert Mueller (Ortiz, 2015). The school has an unofficial, possibly decades-old, tradition referred to as the “Senior Salute” in which male seniors attempt to hook up with as many freshmen girls as they can, which sometimes involves having sex with them (Sutherland, 2015). Ultimately, Labrie was convicted of the felony of using an online service or the Internet to seduce a child under 16 in order to commit a sexual assault, as well as three misdemeanor counts, including a misdemeanor sexual assault and a misdemeanor child endangerment. He was acquitted of the felony of forcible rape and received a sentence of one year in prison followed by probation. He also had to register as a sex offender for life (Ortiz & Johnson, 2015). He has since been released early for good behavior (Sacks, 2019).

Rape is the most underreported violent crime in the United States (Gross, Winslett, Roberst, & Gohn, 2006; U.S. Department of Justice, 2002). More than a third of college rapes happen on campus (Sampson, 2002), and it is estimated that less than 1 in 20 attempted or completed campus rapes are ever reported (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner 2000; U.S. Department of Justice, 2000).

There are many reasons why the report rates are low. Most rape victims are too embarrassed to report and choose not to report, due to having to relive their horrendous experience by verbally retelling their stories. In addition, many victims don’t report the crime committed against them for fear they will not be believed or will be shamed or blamed for the rape, or fear of retaliation, or fear that the perpetrator will not be prosecuted.

Alcohol is involved in three-fourths of college related rapes, as was revealed in data from one study involving 119 schools participating in three Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study surveys. The sample of randomly selected students included nearly 24,000 women over three years between 1997 and 2001 (Mohler-Kuo, Dowdall, Koss, & Wechsler, 2004). What complicates justice to the victims of campus sexual assaults and rapes is that only 10-25% of the college male perpetrators were ever expelled (Shapiro, 2010; Roark, 1987). To the mostly female victims of campus rape or sexual assault this means that, if they choose to continue their own studies at the institution where the assault happened, they are faced on a daily basis with having to live with the fear of encountering their assailant.

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