Free Research Proposal On Sexual Assault/ Victimization Reporting Rates And Effects Among College Students In The US

Type of paper: Research Proposal

Topic: Sexual Abuse, Crime, Victimology, Criminal Justice, Assault, Violence, Discrimination, Students

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2020/12/28


There are many different reasons that sexual assault and rape occur, even more many reasons are still unknown however many reasons though there is never an excuse. College campuses have become an increasing area of opportunity for attackers to prey on unsuspecting victims as there are many times that people put themselves in vulnerable situations on the campuses across the united states. Victims that were surveyed have reported that often they do not turn their attacker in for various reasons including fear and embarrassment. However the real shocking explanation of these assaults was able to be heard straight from the attackers themselves in an anonymous study. Many times the attackers even expressed feeling no remorse for their actions. With the long-term effect that sexual assault leaves on a victim it is imperative that there is another way to raise awareness of the epidemic. It is equally necessary to find a system that people who are victims feel safe reporting to so there can be accurate numbers for analysis concerning sexual assaults.


There are many articles today that address the concern that sexual deviants are preying on college students. This proposed study addresses the issue that, the lack of reports by college students when they are sexually assaulted or raped is directly responsible for recidivism by the predators. More specifically this report is going to investigate the hypothesis that lower reports by these college students may or may not lead to more sexual assaults. To do this the rates of sexual assault victimization among college students in the United States must be determined. It is important to do a study on this particular topic because the numbers suggest that the number of women who are victims of sexual assault and do not report their attack are reaching alarming levels and this may be because many of the cases are going unreported. The study is guided by two hypotheses in an attempt to reach a conclusion about a definitive need for more research and resources pertaining to college women who are victims of rape and sexual assault so there may be a way to stop the growing attacks through reports. The first hypothesis is aimed at discovering if low reports of sexual assaults and rape may equal higher risks of sexual assault and rape victimization in future incidences. The second hypothesis is aimed at discovering whether the rate of reported sexual assaults among college victims is higher or lower than reported non intimate crime rates at colleges. The theory is that sexual assaults and rapes in college campuses across the United States are such a concern because people fail to report them and this is causing perpetrators to seek out more victims in colleges. The factors of why things go unreported is equally important to determine a way that colleges can become a place that students can feel safe from these attacks.

Literature Review

Sexual assault has a major impact on the criminal justice system in more ways than one. The victims of these assaults are reported to carry lifelong issues as a result of their attack including domestic violence in future relationships as there unresolved attack can lead to violent tendencies later in life. Another issue is that suspects that get away with crimes may be prone to commit different and more serious crimes if they are not caught. The fact that the college attacks are often unreported by the victims means there is not only many unknown victims but also many unknown perpetrators who are a high risk for committing these and escalated crimes of this nature in the future which means college students who do not report these incidences are creating a breeding ground for dangerous predators. The system has been known to use aggressive tactics when deciphering who is telling the truth and making a false report and sometimes this leads to truthful complaints being dismissed which does not help the process of ascertaining more reports. Some detectives do this by telling the victims that the trial will be long and tedious and it may not suit them to undergo a trial process. In some instances a jury does in fact not believe the victim if the defense can create a strong enough defense. In many cases police officers find that there is no alternative to this we dig out the false reports as many of the reported cases that they come across are in fact false reports. By interacting with victim counselors however they are also aware of the amount of rapes and sexual assaults that are never reported. It is known that many rape victims do not report their attack and scholars are in agreement that the statistics filed and collected by police are incorrect being far less than the actual total amount of rape victims. The theory is that actual rape reports if they were all reported would be far more than the number of false reports (Bryden & Lengnick, 1997). These mixed statistics make it much harder for officers to determine the facts about how serious the issue of rape and sexual assault is and unfortunately bend the results in favor of not believing women because as of now there are more false reports than actual rape cases at least as far as police have reported making the statistics unreliable.
Past research on rapes and sexual assaults indicates that over the last twenty years researchers have been able to determine that sexual assault/rape has become an increasing problem in the United States. Statistics indicate that one in four women of every adult has been the victim of some sort of sexual assault/rape. Research also suggests that the incident of these assaults on the victims is not only damaging to the victim but the immediate family and friend circle as well. Trauma and impact can be felt by anyone who is exposed to the victimization and that even includes people who are appointed to help victims that survive these vicious assaults like counselors and even lawyers. From the knowledge and collection of all of this information one conclusion is certain among all of these researchers and that is there needs to be future research delving deeper into the incidences of rape and sexual assault (Campbell, 2005). When it comes to rape and sexual assault on college campuses around the United States it is not a new issue and in fact has been a recognized problem since 1957. One researcher had the opportunity to find the most disturbing results as she was capable of getting this information directly from the predators themselves. Her results showed that nearly eight percent of men on college campuses had reported that they had either attempted or succeeded in forcing sex on another person and equally disturbing results revealed nearly none of these predators saw this as criminal. Their reasoning for not feeling responsible or predatory encompasses the very problem of women not reporting there rapes. The men did not feel what they did was wrong because there was no repercussions for their actions. This research started in the 1980s and even with more explanatory laws and repercussions the fact that women do not report sexual assaults and rapes has only shown a rise in the number of men that report these same results which is now around 11 percent. Her research has also indicated that the reason that college campuses encapsulate such a unique risk is the fact that they are surrounded by situations that pose specific risks like drinking (heavily), peer pressure and sexual promiscuity that allows men to get away with these assaults with little to no repercussions (Kamenetz, 2014).
One study conducted by Bonnie Fischer (NCJRS) that out of ten thousand women at any given college there could be as many as 350 of these woman that are raped and sexually assaulted during one year . Many of these women will not even consider their attack a sexual assault or rape which means they will not report it. There are many reasons that contribute to this way of thinking including feelings of shame, lack of understanding of what rape does, not want to report the attacker because it is an acquaintance and self-blame. These factors and lack of knowledge put the college students at a higher risk of becoming victimized and the imperative issue is often there is no justice because of the lack of reporting when there is a crime of this nature. In the NCWSV study reports showed that the amount of female students who had been victimized (not sexually assaulted) was 27.7 out of every one thousand students (Fisher, Cullen & Turner, 2000). However when indicating the number of woman who had been raped as well as sexually assaulted this number went up to 57. These numbers were taken as estimates over the process of half of a year however the researchers express concerns that these numbers are still very intimidating considering that there are many variables to include like what time a year the rapes and sexual assaults took place. In all it is estimated that for every one thousand college women there is around 35 of them that have been victimized.
Out of the twenty percent of college women who reported there attack for one survey there is proof that these women are at a higher risk of developing certain behaviors that put their health at risk. Some of these behaviors include physical abuse and or fighting with partners, smoking, drinking, drug use, multiple partners and suicide thoughts which is a bigger risk than women who are not attacked. The suggested reasoning for the relationship between sexual assault/rape and health risk behaviors is that the behavior was prevalent and increased women’s risks of being assaulted and that the behavior was a direct reflection of the assault. There is also a possibility of the behavior working in “both directions” which means that the sexual assault rape was a direct result from the, at risk behavior and the behavior continued because of the assault (Berner, Warren, McMahon & Douglas, 1999). This risk behavior can have other equally negative effects on the person(s) that are affected. Reports on sexual assault/rape indicate that out of all of the assaults at least 58% of the victims were injured. Women who undergo this type of trauma have shown more susceptibility to serious illnesses like “asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, and diabetes, and are also more likely to suffer from chronic pain, frequent headaches, difficulty sleeping, smoking, to have high cholesterol and hypertension, and to be obese.” Along with this long list of injuries it is reported that women who are sexually assaulted also have a higher risk of contracting many infectious diseases including HIV (Council, 2014). These risks are definitely disruptive to a young person’s learning process as if the assault was not traumatizing and disruptive enough. A person experiencing any number of these issues as a result of a sexual assault or rape will likely have difficulty dealing with or remedying any of these issues without the support they will need and can obtain from reporting the victimization.
When it comes to gathering evidence for conviction the report is the most important thing. Considering the fact that so many college assaults go unreported this can cause a major gap in the amount of suspects who are convicted and the ones who simply get away with their crime. However the reason that many people do not report there rape or sexual assault is fear. This fear comes from many different places including the persons own shame which will be something he or she is forced to face should the incident reach a trial proceeding. Through ought history if a woman reported a rape she was treated suspiciously which has not changed as time has went by as much as some would like. If the woman was to be sexually active with more than one partner or outside of marriage all of these things were taken into account to see how reliable her statement about said suspect might be. Often women without signs of some type of real physical harm were not believed if they reported such an assault. Since women were viewed with so little acceptance it made many women and even the women today close there selves off from reporting victimizations like these for fears of being ridiculed or made out to be a liar and loose legged. These are not all myths and legends as today there is still the point in the trial where the prosecutor will consider how the jurors will view the woman accusing the suspect if her sexual tendencies are addressed (which they will be) during the trial (Orenstien, 2007). Added to the already victimizing trial is trying to get the evidence you need into the court to prove that the suspect is in fact guilty of the crimes he/she is being accused.
DNA evidence or Deoxyribonucleic acid, detects specific genetic markers making the possibility of identifying a person by this trait significant and valuable in cases that involve rape and sexual assault. There are a percentage of 99.9 that is in a person’s DNA that is the same as everyone else’s however it is the 1% that separates and identifies a person from the rest of society that is needed to obtain a conviction. If the suspect leaves behind there DNA in a case it can be collected to prove who was responsible for the attack. The problem is however that although it is now being used in so many different places there are still issues with what is and is not admissible in court. The usual reason that DNA evidence is not allowed in court is if the results of the test cannot be proven to be scientifically “valid and reliable” (Kaye & Sansabaugh, 2015). When some samples obtained from a crime scene are exposed to elements in the environment like heat, sunlight and bacteria they can become compromised therefore causing some amount of discrepancies in the scientific community regarding there validity.
Penile swabs are used for extracting DNA from a man’s penile region that can help identify any other persons DNA that he has come in contact with recently. It is done by swabbing the penis shaft with two semi moist cotton swabs (sterile water) and one dry cotton swab. Next the scrotum is also swabbed in circular motions all the way to the penis base with two more cotton swabs. If the suspect is arrested within a timely matter of the assault this is the DNA collection process he will go through and it will help forensic investigators determine if there was any transfer of DNA to the suspect from the victim. If a condom is used the suspects fingers are also able to be swabbed for evidence. In 76 % of cases involving penile swabs the victims DNA was found present on the suspect even though only 24% of the victim’s vaginal swabs produced the suspects DNA. Researchers in Germany, the United States, Canada and England cautioned the system that it was possible to extract the same DNA in smaller amounts from the suspects other bodily fluids. However this idea of DNA extraction is not preferred because the chances of the sample getting compromised a greatly increased. This is because when presumptive DNA methods like this are used there is an increase in the possibility that when the blood is diluted the samples are subject to be destroyed (Tobe, Watson & Daeid, 2015). Now that there are other methods no matter the intrusive technique that show less indication of damage or contamination these presumptive methods are used less often in comparison with the alternatives like penile swabs. Common Law allows police officers to collect this evidence in the event that an arrest is made. Common Law states that “Police have the power to search and seize anything in the possession of or in the immediate surroundings of the arrested party, to guarantee the safety of the police and the accused, to prevent escape or provide evidence against the accused” (Kaye & Sansabaugh, 2015). If there is an opportunity to collect this evidence with little force than it is one of the greatest links of biological evidence that can be collected linking the suspect to the victim. When determining the admissibility of evidence in court it is important to have the most up to date and scientifically proven evidence so that there is less room for the defense to have any evidence thrown out on technicalities that could potentially be the reason a suspect is convicted.
Some of the predictors of sexual assault and rape include a vicious cycle of child sexual abuse. The research gathered showed that two of the strongest predictors for males who became adult predators included their own experience with sexual abuse as children as well as the loss of one or both parents. This was based mostly on research gathered from perpetrators who report that they were once victims who followed the cycle to become the victimizer. Perpetrators report that there choice in victims depends mainly on their persons physical characteristics. For many situations the perpetrator will look for similar victims to the ones that mimic their own traumatization. There is no research however that identifies the reason why no matter the statistics how most perpetrators are men and most often victims are women. The research that is available does suggest that many male suspects who were victims once let those emotions out in a way that is damaging to others while females who were victims hold there destruction inside mostly doing damage to them. There is more research suggesting another reason why males evolve there victimization cycle into attacks on females is so that they can achieve a feeling of masculinity from there attack that was most likely taken away when they were victims of similar sexual assaults and abuse (GLASSER, 2001).

Policy Implications

Rape victims are often subject to more victimization then they experience with the initial rape. Traumatizing as a rape may be reliving this experience can prove to be just as challenging if not more and to relive the trauma every day is what a victim will face if he/she chooses to report the attack. Labeling is what some victims are forced to deal with when they report the rape as society often blames a victim of sexual assault/rape for being at least partially responsible for their situation. This in turn creates an acceptance in society of the sexual assault/rape and makes it more difficult for the victims of this to get any type of justice. When there is minimal justice for victims who are busy defending their dignity there is not a lot of prevention methods available to help make a change. As times have changed rape has become less socially acceptable and victims are given more recognition than they used to be however the change has not been enough. Victims are still forced to undergo lengthy trials where there entire life and list of sexual partners is paraded in front of a jury in an attempt to prove that they in fact brought the rape upon themselves or are lying which creates a hostile environment for these victims. In most cases the female is portrayed as someone who led the perpetrator on or lured them in making themselves a victim (Victims, 2015). Men are not given a credible standpoint either as victims as society looks at men as masculine and finds it hard to believe they did not want the sexual intercourse that they are talking about being a victim of. With society seeing rape in such a distorted view it makes the victim susceptible to even more trauma that may feel like is unnecessary. If the rape were to go unreported there would be more of a chance that they would not have to undergo these other traumatizing labels and this is often times why victims do not report their attackers. The power balance theory suggests that sexual attacks against women are a result of there being an imbalance of power between men and woman as perceived by society. However it is suggested that allowing there to be a separation of power as opposed to equal power between men and women allows further chances for men to feel that it is okay to treat women in this way and often times they do not see themselves as victimizers. Cultures that perceive men as superior are not the only factor responsible for victimization but research suggests that there is a large implication that they are a major factor (Kalra & Bhugra, 2013).
Recent statistics report that the number of reported, forcible incidences of sexual assault and rape have been declining from around 100 victims every year in the years 2004 through 2006 that were reported to local and campus police. However the student self-reports indicate that underreporting is still a major concern. This is a major difference considering that .02 percent of rape cases were reported and the students self-survey reported that in fact three percent of college woman are the actual number of victims that experience rape and sexual assault during an academic year of nine months. That is 30 rapes and sexual assaults for every 1000 students that did not report there victimization to authorities and left the offender free to commit the crime again or even become more violent and deviant. The scientific community does not recognize the results of these studies as they contend that the surveys are not put together and worded properly however the studies do raise the question about how accurate police statistics really are considering that most victims are less than inclined to report their attack (Justice, 2015).
There is some recognition currently that sexual assault and rape are a concern that needs to be addressed in the college campuses by The American College Health Association (ACHA). This organization attributes escalated levels of these attacks and the cultures acceptance of rape myths are what the organization attributes this. Through research on the epidemic ACHA was able to determine that there are four areas that need to be addressed to make a change. One is identifying social norms that promote these kinds of attacks. Two is to strengthen the feeling of community safety. Three is to attribute alcohol use to the attacks through campaigns. Last is to use teachers to educate the students about safety and prevention of sexual assault and rape. Although much is known about what needs to be done ACHA quotes Dr. Lee L. Guy and B. Perry to emphasize the need for more “To address sexual violence prevention in a truly comprehensive manner, strategies to prevent its initial perpetration and victimization (primary prevention) must reach the same level of efficacy and adoption as programs that respond to its consequences” (Ward, 2008).


Many women are victims of sexual assault every year however the amount is even more alarming across college campuses in America. The reasons are that often times there is little understanding or recollection of the incident and in some cases it is simply the victim is too afraid to tell. This is a serious concern because of the possibility that not reporting these assaults is encouraging to the criminals who committed the crime. Some even stated that they did not feel like they were wrong simply because they got away with it. Women who do not report their attackers for any reason are creating a dangerous breeding ground for a specific and dangerous crime in our colleges and something needs to be done to change this before the crimes escalate. Schools should be a safe place to learn not a place to worry about being attacked and something should be done to ensure this. Although numbers for these assaults are alarming researchers are unsure how big of a problem this is because many assaults go unreported. There needs to be a method of reporting that will make the victim come forward so that researchers know how big the issue is and can put the best efforts forward for prevention.


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