One in five female undergraduates have experienced some kind of sexual assault while in college, according to a new study of students at nine institutions released Wednesday by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The study included survey responses from 15,000 women and 8,000 men, and defined sexual assault as including both rape and sexual battery, such as forced kissing, touching, grabbing or fondling.
The study found that 21 percent of female undergraduates said they had been sexually assaulted while in college. On average, one-quarter of female seniors reported the same, as did 7 percent of male undergraduates. In the previous year alone, 10 percent of female students reported being sexually assaulted, and 4.2 percent said they were raped. Only 12.5 percent of women who said they were raped reported the assault to colleges or law enforcement.
The study joins several others released in the last year that have consistently found that one in five female students have experienced sexual assault, lending further support to the oft-cited, but frequently contested, statistic popularized in recent years by activists and the White House. The new study, however, is unlikely to silence critics, who often argue that such surveys should focus on rape, specifically.