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College Admissions: How Widespread is Campus Rape?

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Elite Amherst College is the center of a growing crisis regarding rape culture on its campus. How safe are the schools your child is considering? Photo: Dana Bolger, It Happens Here/Amherst College

According the Department of Justice, 1 in 5 women will be the victim of sexual assault in college; it is estimated that only 5% of victims will report the crime. Rape on college campuses is not new. However, we were all shocked last week when media reports surfaced exposing rape cover-ups at one of the nation’s most elite colleges. With an acceptance rate of just 13% and average SATs in the 700s,

Amherst College rivals the Ivy League in attracting the best young minds in the country. Add to that its idyllic rural setting with just 1800 students, and it seemed inconceivable that dozens of rape victims were coming forward. But what outraged everyone more was the response of the college administrators who discouraged reporting and minimized the acts. Parents of high school and college students are frightened and want answers. So, how can families assess campus safety and protect kids?

Check the Stats

The first thing you can do is check the government website that was set up to report crimes on and around college campuses. It is called the Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool. A quick check of Amherst College shows 14 forcible sexual assaults reported in 2010 (we now know that many were not reported). At a much larger school nearby, UMASS with 28,000 students, there were fewer sexual assaults reported in 2010. And at a college around the same size as Amherst, Colby in Maine, there were no reports of sexual assault in 2010.

Google Colleges to Assess the Climate

After checking the stats, research your college(s). A simple Internet search containing a college name and “rape” or “sexual assault” will tell you a lot. In 2010, a Yale fraternity made news with a video and march through campus chanting “No Means Yes”. UVM shut down a fraternity that circulated a questionnaire that asked “Who would you most like to rape?”. A former UVA student raped in 1984 recently released a book on her experience and unleashed a torrent of cover up allegations on that campus. In 2006, Dean Larimore at Dartmouth acknowledged that there were about “50 completed rapes” at Dartmouth per year. Then, the Sexual Abuse Awareness Program at Dartmouth estimated the true number of rapes at 109 per year. Reading news reports about the attitudes of students, organizations and administrators responding to rape will tell you a lot that statistics can’t express.

Protecting Your Kids

It would be nice to think that you could leave your dorm room door unlocked, that you could walk home from the library or a bar late at night alone —but you can’t. Kids need to hear this again and again from parents. They also need to learn safety and self-defense tactics. Simply being aware of your surroundings while walking is key. Every student should also take a self-defense class and should understand the enormous link between alcohol and rape. The best defense against assault involves understanding how to recognize dangerous situations and avoid them. And finally, kids need to know what to do if they are raped, where to access medical attention, the location of police stations for reporting, and to call their parents or another adult immediately to help protect their rights and guide their actions.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com.

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