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Analysis: The numbers behind campus sexual assault

November 25, 2019 12:06 pm Alex Hulvalchick

On June 3rd, 2016, Buzzfeed News published Chanel Miller’s victim impact statement that she read aloud during the sentencing of her rapist, Brock Turner. At the time, she was known only as Emily Doe, but her message about her on-campus sexual assault resonated with all who heard it.

News anchors read her statement verbatim while struggling to hold back tears. Jackie Speier, a California congresswoman, read the statement during an hour-long session on the House floor. To this day, the original posting on Buzzfeed has been read over 18 million times.

Chanel didn’t realize the impact that her words would have until letters began flooding into her lawyer’s office. Many were from other survivors informing her of their stories and how she had given them strength. Others were penned by readers who felt truly moved by her tenacity and will.

Over 3 years later, Chanel came forward as Emily Doe in her powerful book, Know My Name: A Memoir. Chanel documents her experiences with the court system and helps shine a light on the lives of sexual assault survivors beyond the attack.

According to statistics by RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, an American is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds with a majority of those, 54 percent, being between the ages of 18 and 34. This age group includes the typical college age student. In fact, women aged 18-24 who attend college are 3 times more likely to experience sexual violence than women in the general population. In her memoir, Chanel recalls the experiences of multiple friends of hers that had also experienced sexual violence in their young lives. Men in the same circumstances are 5 times more likely to experience sexual violence.

Since the Clery Act was signed in 1990, the United States Department of Education has collected data concerning crime that occurs on and around college campuses across the country. This data is required to be reported to current and prospective students and employees each year by the first of October. If a school is found in violation, they can be fined or have federal funding suspended.


The chart below displays the rate of sexual assault per 1,000 residents for each state. Alaska had the highest rate at 1.616 and New Jersey and the lowest at 0.16. For comparison, the red bars represent the data for on campus sexual assault for 2018.

The data regarding sexual assault on college campuses from the past 4 years shows even more troubling signs. Amongst the most populated college campuses per state, 14 were found to have a greater rate of sexual assault per 1,000 students than that of the state as a whole for years 2015 through 2018. This also rang true for the data from Stanford, the school where Chanel was assaulted.

The following charts show the rate of sexual assault per 1,000 students on campus verses off campus and are broken down by year. The data was gathered from the Clery website as well as each schools annual safety report. Although data for 2018 was required to be disclosed by October 1st, when the United States Department of Education was contacted, they stated that 2018’s data would not be available on their website until early next year.

Rape that occurs off-campus can be underreported in Clery data due to the responsibility of action not falling on the school. Off campus housing is often not owned by the university itself so the jurisdiction often falls upon local police. There have been lawsuits in the past arguing that schools should be held accountable for conducting investigations into assault that happens off campus, particularly at fraternity houses.

campus sexual assault 2015campus sexual assault 2016

In some cases such as Ohio State University and Michigan State University, the data was skewed by recent bombshell revelations regarding the improper handling of criminal actions by employees of each school. At Ohio State, a doctor by the name of Richard Stauss abused 177 male student athletes who were put in his care during a 17-year period from 1979 until 1996. The abuse was known by multiple employees in the athletic department, including current Ohio Representative Jim Jordan. Jordan has denied all allegations of knowledge of the abuse despite many reports to the contrary.

Michigan State was rocked by their own scandal in 2018 when former physician and USA gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was convicted on multiple counts of sexual assault of a minor, stemming from the molestation of his patients, along with further charges for child pornography. The impact can be seen in the graph for 2018’s data. The rate for off campus assault at Michigan State University that year was 19.37 and the bar depicted reaches far beyond the graphs limits.

Many Olympic medal-winning gymnasts including Mckayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, and Simone Biles have come forward with their stories of abuse at the hands of Nassar. During the trial, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina allowed all survivors that wanted to give impact statements the chance to do so. Chanel spoke to this in her memoir stating, “I’d never questioned the short time limit I was given to read my statement, until Judge Aquilina made time for 169 statements. She made it clear each one was important.” Nassar is expected to spend the remainder of his life in prison.

In the case of the data for 2017 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a student reported an abusive relationship with a partner that repeatedly forced her into sexual acts throughout the relationship. Excluding the data from that individual report, there were 12 reported rapes on campus that year.

Beyond those outliers, many universities had exceedingly high rates in comparison with the state average. At the University of Wyoming, the rate from 2015 was over twice as high with 2017 being nearly 3.5 times as high. The University of Vermont showed similar data as well. The two worst schools were the University of Maine with a rate 6.67 times higher in their worst year of 2017 and the University of New Hampshire with a rate 6.27 times higher in 2015.

While Stanford is not the most populated school in its home state of California, it is included in the data because it is the site of Chanel’s assault. According to the numbers for Stanford, each year the schools rate was higher than the state average, 3.6 times higher in 2015, 4.9 times in 2016, 2.2 times in 2017, and 4.5 times in 2018. This data is represented in the graph below.

Stanford campus sexual assault

According to Chanel’s memoir, Stanford did not contact her for 10 days following her assault. When they did reach out, they did so simply to inform Chanel that her assailant was banned from campus. After this, she wouldn’t hear from Stanford for almost 2 more years. When her victim impact statement went viral, Stanford released a statement including the line, “There has been a significant amount of misinformation circulating about Stanford’s role. In this case, Stanford University, its students, its police and its staff members did everything they could.” Stanford further mentioned the often repeated line that they take sexual assault very seriously. Chanel described reading their words as, “lemon wedges in the wound.”

Stanford eventually offered an apology to Chanel and said they would pay for her therapy. This offer was made 2 days before Turner was released from jail. A supporter of Chanel’s by the name of Michele Dauber, a sociology professor at Stanford, worked with the school and proposed creating a garden at the site of the assault with a plaque stating a quote of Chanel’s choosing.

Stanford did indeed build the garden but in the end, there was no plaque with Chanel’s words placed there. They had rejected all of the quotes submitted by Chanel because the space was meant to be “inspirational” and not to “target or condemn a single individual”. The quotes submitted were all from her victim impact statement that had already been made public. After months of back and forth, Chanel politely informed them she would not be providing a quote and declined Stanford’s plan to host an unveiling ceremony.

Sexual assault has slowly become a part of the everyday lives of all those living in the United States. It seems everyday that a new allegation comes out about a famous writer, director, or actor. This could be due in part to the #MeToo movement assisting women in finding their voices and speaking out against sexual assault. After Chanel’s statement went public, “Rape hotlines were ringing, calls and volunteers increasing.”

Information gathered from Clery data shows an increase in reported Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, offenses. Below is a graph created with data from 2014 through 2017 showing the total number of reported on campus VAWA crimes. This data was gathered from the Clery Act website.

Sexual assault isn’t simply a problem here in the United States. It happens in every city, state, and country. According to statistics from worldpopulationreview.com, worldwide approximately 35% of women have dealt with some form of sexual harassment during their life.

The World Population Review further ranks countries based on their rate of rape. The United States rank as the 13th worst country.

Data on these type of crimes is often underreported; The amount of women that report these crimes is well below half due in part because of a lack of faith in the justice system. In many cases, these crimes do not even reach prosecution, leaving survivors with a sense of a lack of justice. Others choose not to report for fear of retaliation or not being believed.

Recent reports show a backlog of untested rape kits in cities like Minneapolis where 1,700 untested kits were found. Some of the kits dated all the way back to the 1990’s. Chanel’s kit was also a victim of backlog and hers was not alone. she stated, “There were hundreds in line before me, some kits kept so long they were growing mold, some thrown out, the lucky ones refrigerated.” At Youngstown State University, a male tennis player who was suspended in 2016 for sexual assault is now the assistant coach of the women’s tennis team. Youngstown State is located in Youngstown, Ohio approximately 170 miles from Ohio State University.

Chanel Miller was assaulted on January 18, 2015. It has been nearly 5 years since that day. In that time, Brock Turner served 3 of the 6 months he was sentenced in jail and has been released, voters recalled Judge Aaron Persky from the bench in 2018 due to his handling of the case, and the #MeToo movement has swept the nation. Emily Doe was named one of Glamour’s Woman of the Year in 2016 and Know My Name: A Memoir was listed as one of Time magazines 100 Must-Read Books of 2019.

Chanel explains that the real sacred place she found is less than 100 feet from the garden Stanford erected. In her own words, “The place to be remembered is not where I was assaulted, but where he fell, where I was saved, where 2 men declared stop, no more, not here, not now, not ever.”

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