At last, the state has begun to notice the prevalence of sexual violence and rape cases on Californian campuses. The cases are not exceptional for any campuses, as the assault occurs nationwide. The increase in these cases on campuses has led the Department of Education to declare campus sexual assault an epidemic. Often, victims of these acts find themselves betrayed by the University or College administrators, discouraging them from taking civil action against the perpetrators of the sex crimes.
In response, legislators and campus administrators have tightened laws, procedures, and preventive measures to encourage students who are victims of sexual assault to report the cases. At Sex Crimes Attorney, we have a firm conviction that as a victim of this crime, you deserve compensation because of the severe short-term and long-term health effects of sexual assault, which often change your life completely. Additionally, we believe that campus administrators who fail to adopt the right changes in these higher learning institutions should face monetary punishment for failing to properly investigate sexual assault cases in their institutions or protect victims.
So, when you or an immediate family member has suffered sexual violence in college or university, you should not hesitate to contact our campus sexual assault attorney to learn more about your rights and claim compensation.
Legal Definition of Sexual Assault
Sexual assault refers to any non-consensual sexual contact or conduct, including when the victim cannot consent or give explicit consent to the act. Sexual assault takes different forms, and the common ones are:
Unwanted sexual contact or fondling
Rape or penetration of the victim’s vagina or anus
Forcing another party to engage in sexual acts like oral sex or sexual intercourse
One common type of sexual assault is rape, but this does not mean that all sexual assault incidents amount to penetration of the victim’s body. This is because rape is defined as forced sexual penetration of a victim’s body without permission. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crimes Report, rape is any penetration of the anus or vagina using any body part or object. Also, rape may be defined as oral penetration by a sex organ of someone else without permission from the victim. Note that even the slightest penetration amounts to rape. On the other end, sexual assault consists of several sexual acts or contact.
Campus Sexual Assault Statistics
According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), female college students aged 18 to24 years are in more danger of experiencing sexual assault or violence. Unfortunately, many people do not have the accurate figures that demonstrate the pervasiveness or prevalence of these acts on campuses. Approximately 13% of undergraduate and graduate students experience rape or sexual assault using physical force, incapacitation, or violence.
9.7% of the females experience sexual assault or rape for the graduate and professional campus students. The number of male students who undergo the same experience is 2.5%. When it comes to undergraduate students, 26.4% of the female and 6.8% of male students are raped or sexually assaulted through violence, physical force, or incapacitation.
It is worth noting that if you fall under the age bracket of 18 to 24, whether you are a student or not, you are in danger of sexual assault or rape. Recent RAINN figures show that male college students that fall at this age bracket are 78% riskier of becoming sexual assault victims than non-students. Female campus students in the same age group are 20% less likely to be victims of sexual assault or rape than non-college-going females.
Similarly, sexual violence is the most prevalent on campuses compared to other offenses like robbery. College women are twice likely to be survivors of rape or sexual assault than robbery. One out of every five women sexually assaulted on campus obtains help from victim service agencies. Also, 23.1% of the transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming (TGN) campus students are sexually assaulted.
Reasons Why Campuses are Reporting More Sexual Assault Cases than Other Crimes
As mentioned above, a female student in college is twice likely to be sexually assaulted or raped than robbed. For every two sexual assault cases reported, only one robbery incident is reported. So, it is critical to review risk factors and several causative factors for sexual assault cases in universities and colleges. Nonetheless, it is wise not to overlook the fact that most college-going students are away from home or their parents’ control for the first time, giving them more freedom than they have ever had before. With no parents to restrict their freedom, these students are more likely to engage in riskier behaviors.
With the newfound freedom in adulthood, most students joining university or college campuses are known for notorious partying. And because of the need for acceptance, some of these party-going students engage in uncomfortable or unsafe sexual conduct, explaining the prevalence of sexual assault cases.
Factors Increasing the Risk of Campus Sexual Assault
Many factors increase the risk of campus sexual assault, although drug or substance use is the main. According to The Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) research, 23% of campus students testified using controlled substances or drugs to acquire sexual intercourse. Substance or drug users are more likely to become victims of sexual assault or perpetrators of the crime. Also, one is likely to cause more harm to their victim when they are on drugs than when sober.
Alcohol consumption was highly associated with sexual assault in the same study because the men who were heavy drinkers had engaged in sexual assault than those who were not heavy drinkers. Further, 74% of the incidents where the perpetrators reported drinking alcohol before the violence, the prior drug or substance abuse caused effects of the brutality of the sexual assault.
Apart from substance abuse, several other elements significantly increase the danger of campus sexual assault. They include age and year on campus, alcohol consumption, race and ethnicity, dating violence, prior consensual sexual experiences, residential status, history of victimization, and sorority membership.
Firstly, from the study, 84% of the women recounted having been sexually assaulted during the first two years or four semesters on the campus. The figures demonstrate that the year of study plays a role in the likelihood of sexual assault, with first and second-year students having an elevated risk of assault. Consequently, despite your year of study on campus not indicating your age, female students 21 or younger were more likely to be sexually assaulted than those 21 or older.
Similarly, although very few studies have been conducted on how race or ethnicity impacts the possibility of sexual assault, white women or Native American women have the highest number of college sexual assault cases than Asian, African American, and Hispanic women.
Also, sorority membership and residential status significantly impact the risk of assault. Many studies show that students living within the campus or sorority housing had an elevated risk of sexual assault than those living off-campus.
Again, students who had a history of sexual victimization were more likely to be sexually assaulted. In a particular study, 10% of the female students reported having been rape survivors, and 11% attempted rape before the start of an academic year when the study was carried out.
In another 1995 research, female students who reported having a history of victimization by their intimate partners before joining campus were at an elevated danger of sexual assault during their study years. Nonetheless, one factor that stood out is childhood sexual abuse or violence because it did not in any way increase the likelihood of campus sexual assault. Nonetheless, the student’s conduct and responses are more likely to occur on students with prior victimization. The conduct and responses being referred to here are:
Delayed psychological adjustments
Other mental conditions manifesting due to sexual assault
All these elements, individually or collected, elevate the dangers of college sexual assault. In response to this epidemic, post-high school education institutions and the Department of Education are working together to develop policies that will do away with campus rape culture and the current risks.
Campus Sexual Assault Perpetrators
Generally, on and off-campus, eight out of ten rape cases are perpetrated by people known to their victims as a relative, an associate, or ex or current spouse.
Figures from a poll conducted on on-campus students show that the victim’s previous intimate partners perpetrated nearly 33% of assault cases, 31% by perpetrators identifiable by the victim, and 25% by the victim’s friends. Again, another 35% of assault victims reported the perpetrators as their classmates. Another 5% of undergraduate students reported that their teachers were the perpetrators of the heinous act, compared to 16.15% of the graduate students.
In many movies, you see perpetrators of sexual assault as total strangers. Nonetheless, in real-life situations, the perpetrators are not strangers, meaning you should not only guard yourself against strangers but also against close family, friends, or people you are familiar with who portray red flags or warning signs.
Campus Sexual Assault Victims
No matter the gender, age, ethnicity, or race, any student can be a victim of campus sexual assault. A study shows that 26.4% of women and 6.8% of male undergraduate students reported being sexually assaulted by physical force or incapacitation. Besides, female students were three times more at risk of sexual assault than female nonstudents of college-age. On the other hand, 78% of male college students were at an elevated risk of sexual violence than male non-students of the same age.
Factors Contributing to Campus Sexual Assault
College or University environment in itself increases the possibility of sexual assault. The elements that contribute to assault cases are:
Threats and Ultimatums
In the Greek life setting, when you are a member of a sorority group or fraternity, you are more likely to experience sexual assault of some kind. The main reason for this is that these social gatherings involve consuming alcohol or controlled substances, increasing the possibility of risk behavior like dangerous or uncomfortable sexual activity. With sorority membership in various campuses in California, there is an elevated risk of sexual assault.
Misogyny is a term that refers to hatred towards the female gender, the hatred results in behaviors like objectifying the female gender or sexual harassment. And because colleges and universities admit students nationwide with different ethnicities and social settings, it becomes easy to admit people with misogynistic ideologies. When these students are around the campus, they are likely to go on these tendencies of sexually harassing or objectifying women knowingly or unknowingly, contributing to campus sexual assault.
Objectification of Female Students
Objectification of women is one of the conducts portrayed by people with misogynistic ideologies. Women objectification means that female students are only good at pleasing men or making them happy. Unfortunately, today with the widespread use of social media in campuses where mostly women post their pictures, it has become easier for male students to view women as sexual objects and not ordinary people. The lack of respect towards women and seeing their bodies and not the people they are has contributed to the increased possibility of sexual assault on female students because male students feel the women are there to do anything necessary to make them happy.
Recall many sexual assault perpetrators are familiar, friends or classmates with their victims. Grooming conduct or behaviors on the campus are shared as students tend to create trustworthy relationships with others, meaning they can have private time with fellow students. Once the trust has been created and the students are alone, it becomes easy to fall victim to sexual assault from that friend or classmate you trust most. It explains why many perpetrators of campus sexual assault are not strangers but those close to the victims.
Alcohol and Substance Abuse
One of the main factors that cause many college students to be sexually assaulted is alcohol or drugs. Most students have newfound freedom after joining campus because their parents are no longer around to monitor them, creating room for experimentation. Many of them end up in drug and substance abuse which impairs their minds. In these situations, the victim might lack the capacity to consent to the act. The perpetrator might have impaired judgment and assume the victim has consented to the sexual act when they have not, resulting in sexual assault. As indicated earlier, many victims of sexual abuse reported having taken alcohol or other drugs before the assault, while others reported the perpetrator having been drunk or drugged.
Lack of Empathy for the Other Student
Empathy refers to identifying and understanding the other person’s feelings. Sexual assault perpetrators mostly fail to put themselves in their victims' shoes to try and understand or relate to what they are feeling, significantly contributing to the sexual assault epidemic on campuses.
For many students joining college or university, the campus is the first time in their lives they have actual freedom and make independent decisions. The independence and need to fit in pushes many students to have multiple sexual partners, excessive drinking, and drug abuse, elevating the risk of victims and perpetrators being sexually assaulted.
Reasons Many Campus Sexual Assault Cases are Unreported
According to RAINN statistics, only 20% of female students within the college-age bracket report cases of assault to law enforcement. The figures are significantly low compared to female non-students because, according to the same statistics, 32% of female non-students reported assault cases to the police. 26% of the female students failed to report assault cases because they believed it was personal. Another 20% were afraid of reprisal, 12% were convinced the act did not warrant reporting, 10% did not want to put the perpetrator in trouble because they were friends or classmates, 9% believed police would not be of help, and 4% reported, although not to the police.
Other reasons the female students cited for not reporting assault cases were:
Shame or embarrassment
The need to suppress the memories
The feeling that they are to blame
Fear of retaliation
Part of the reasons for not reporting assault includes complex procedures for reporting these cases, leaving many victims unable to meet the requirements for reporting. However, college sexual assault victims fail to report for several reasons and not just one in most cases.
Holding Tertiary Institutions Liable for Campus Sexual Assault
Title IX is a federal enactment of 1972 that prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational institutions that receive funding from the federal government. Under the statute, sex-based discrimination includes sexual assault. The law ensures that all students are afforded equal opportunities to education despite their sex. Therefore, when a student experiences sexual assault, and the school ignores or fails to attend to the matter accordingly, the institution will interfere with the victim’s right to equal education opportunities. Failing to address assault cases or respond to sexual violence in a manner that is not reasonable amounts to gender discrimination, meaning survivors of sexual assault can file civil lawsuits against their campuses for monetary damages.
Also, under this law, universities and colleges are responsible for reporting sexual abuse cases reported to them by students to the local law enforcers. Again, when the institution knows or ought to have known about sexual assault on the campus, they should act promptly to eliminate the assault, deter future cases, and address the effects of the assault to create equal educational opportunities for all learners.
Apart from Title IX, another law that addresses sexual violence cases in higher learning institutions is the Clery Act. The law requires universities and colleges to report all crime figures and policies to promote security. Again, legislators enacted the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act to respond to the elevated risk of assault on campuses. The law requires these tertiary institutions to educate students, faculties and staff members on preventing sexual assault, stalking, dating abuse, and domestic violence.
Action to Take After Campus Sexual Assault
If you or a friend has fallen victim to sexual assault, the most appropriate action is to find a safe place where you can open up about the experience. Also, do not feel the assault was your fault or that you should have acted differently.
You can find someone who had an experience like yours in the past and talk about it, go for counseling, medical examination, and report to law enforcement. Before reporting to the authorities, campus, or campus staff, you can have a rape kit to provide the evidence you need to prove assault. Ensure you report the incident as soon as possible to preserve the evidence and ensure the perpetrator of the heinous act is held accountable.
As mentioned earlier, college reporting of sexual violence is a complex process, so you want to bring in a sex crimes attorney with experience in campus sexual assault cases to assist with the reporting. Also, the attorney can evaluate the sexual assault prevention policies in place and file a civil lawsuit if they believe the college did not implement the necessary measures to prevent cases like yours. By filing a civil suit, you can claim financial compensation for the damages incurred due to the sexual assault. The common damages you can recover from your claim are:
Medical costs or bills
Pain and suffering
Psychological and emotional trauma
Find an Experienced Sexual Assault Attorney Near Me
Overcoming the sexual assault culture in universities and colleges all over California is challenging because of the many obstacles you will encounter as a victim or survivor of the assault. Luckily, speaking to an experienced attorney about your case is a step in the right direction. At Sex Crimes Attorney, we are available to help you as a survivor of the assault on campus bring a civil suit against your institution if you believe they did not respond reasonably or ignored your complaint after you reported your case. Our attorneys will fight to ensure you obtain every applicable form of damage and ensure maximum compensation for justice to be served. Call us today at 888-666-8480 to discuss your civil rights.