According to a new American Association of University Women report, 89 percent of colleges reported zero rapes on campus in 2015.
“Yes!” you cry, collapsing with relief. “The patriarchy is falling. Sexual assault is ending. The world is now safe and equal and a stunning, rosy hue at last.”
To quote our president, wrong.
A number of studies have found that around 20 percent of women are targets of attempted or completed sexual assault while in college, the AAUW correctly points out, and what colleges are reporting (or not reporting) does not at all reflect reality. This low number of reported rapes is actually problematic — it indicates that a number of universities have environments that foster victim-blaming, fear of speaking out, or lack of support systems in place for victims of sexual assault.
While the Clery Act requires schools to disclose crimes on campus, this does not include acts that never went to the school administration or to the police — which is likely the case with many of these schools.
“When campuses disclose zero reports of rape, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking, it simply does not square with research, campus climate surveys, and widespread experiences reported by students,” the analysis explains.
It’s not exactly surprising: according to RAINN, two out of every three sexual assaults go unreported, and this rate is even higher among college women. Also, the “vast majority” of perpetrators will not go to jail, and many women who do not report fear that if they did they would face retaliation.
The authors of the analysis suggest that schools work to encourage reporting, develop campus-wide policies to handle sexual assault, conduct victimization surveys, develop prevention programming, and more to support victims and to increase these numbers to reflect reality.
The authors also urge the Trump administration to continue funding the U.S. Department of Education’s Clery compliance efforts to help schools give resources and instruction to universities that are struggling with these policies.
One thing is certain — the universities reporting zero rapes year after year are certainly not capturing many campuses’ heartbreaking reality.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or contact RAINN for national resources for survivors and their loved ones.