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Serving Victims on Campus

The percentage of completed or attempted rapes among women in institutions of higher education may be between 20 and 25 percent over a college career. According to a 1997 survey, 9 in 10 victims of rape and sexual assault in college knew their offender, and almost 12.8 percent of completed rapes, 35 percent of attempted rapes, and 22.9 percent of threatened rapes happened during a date.35

Factors such as campus attitudes toward sexual assault, student victims' lack of understanding about how to report crimes, and victims' fears of retaliation and about telling their parents point to the need for campuses to coordinate efforts and mobilize resources to help students who are sexually assaulted receive the essential services they need.36 For example, Montclair State University in New Jersey found that campus victims often reported sexual assaults in nontraditional ways, such as telling peer leaders or requesting emergency contraception or screening for sexually transmitted infections. To increase access to campus services, the university provides sexual assault training to individuals considered as victims' first contacts, such as student leaders and staff from student affairs offices. Now, most students who report sexual assault do so with assistance from a trained first contact.37

Although sexual assault primarily affects young women, they are not the only targets. Men, individuals with disabilities, members of cultural and religious minority groups, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals also experience sexual assault on campus and frequently do not report their victimization. In response, institutions of higher education and victim service professionals that serve campus communities need to ensure that their outreach, services, and policies reflect the composition of their campus community and are responsive to the needs of a wide range of victims.

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