Sexual assaults on college campuses are the focus of a new report

More than a quarter of undergraduate women from a large group of leading universities said they experienced a sexual assault.

These women were assaulted either by force or when incapacitated, according to one of the largest studies of its kind that was released in September and reported by the New York Times.

The Association of American Universities commissioned the study. More than 27 percent of female college seniors reported that, since entering college, they had experienced unwanted sexual contact carried out by force or incapacitation, usually due to alcohol or drugs. Nearly half of those, 13 percent, had experienced penetration, attempted penetration or oral sex.

Recently there have been several high-profile lawsuits filed by college students in sexual assault cases. For example, Florida State University’s star quarterback was accused of raping a female student at his off-campus apartment. This case, along with others, has drawn the attention of the White House.

In 2014, President Obama appointed the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assaults. During the research phase, Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) urged the task force to remain focused on the root of the problem, pointing out that rape is “not caused by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions of a small percentage of the community to commit a violent crime.” RAINN stressed that research suggests 90 percent of rapes at universities are perpetrated by 3 percent of college men–demonstrating the high incidence of recidivism among repeat offenders.

In the A.A.U. study, approximately three-fourths of victims did not report the incident to anyone in authority, much less law enforcement.

“Victims are afraid law enforcement won’t take the charge seriously, they feel responsible for the assault, they are ashamed or for any number of personal reasons. It is up to the victim to decide if she wants to prosecute. That is her right,” said Southeastern Louisiana University Police Chief Harold Todd. “When a sexual assault is reported on campus, a medical exam is encouraged, and the victim is directed to seek help at the SELU Counseling Center.”

The SELU Counseling Center is located across from Pursley Hall, at 912 Oak Street.

The Jeanne Clery Act, a consumer protection law passed in 1990, requires all colleges and universities who receive federal funding to share crime statistics and to make this information available to the public. The most recent report for Southeastern provides data for the years 2012– 2014.

It indicates two sexual offenses in 2012, three in 2013 and zero in 2014.

“These numbers aren’t bad for a campus of 15,000 students, and a school the size of a small town,” Todd said.

The University Police Department offers advice and information for students about what steps to take for protection at the Southeastern website.

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