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Acquaintance Rape of College Students

Guide No. 17 (2002)

by Rana Sampson

The Problem of Aquaintance Rape of College Students

Rape is the most common violent crime on American college campuses today. 1 This guide describes the problem of acquaintance rape of college students, addressing its scope, causes and contributing factors; methods for analyzing it on a particular campus; tested responses; and measures for assessing response effectiveness. With this information, police and public safety officers can more effectively prevent the problem.

Researchers believe that college rape prevention programs, including the most widely used ones, are insufficient. Most rapes are unreported, perhaps giving campus administrators and police the false impression that current efforts are adequate. In addition, campus police may be influenced by college administrators who fear that too strong an emphasis on the problem may lead potential students and their parents to believe that rape occurs more often at their college than at others.

Related Problems

Acquaintance rape is but one aspect of the larger set of problems related to sexual assault of college students, and a coherent college strategy should address all aspects of these problems. This guide is limited to crime addressing acquaintance rape. Other related problems not directly addressed by this guide include:

Scope of the Problem

"Women ages 16 to 24 experience rape at rates four times higher than the assault rate of all women,"2 making the college (and high school) years the most vulnerable for women. College women are more at risk for rape and other forms of sexual assault than women the same age but not in college.3 It is estimated that almost 25 percent of college women have been victims of rape or attempted rape since the age of 14.4

Rape rates vary to some extent by school, type of school and region, suggesting that certain schools and certain places within schools are more rape-prone than others.†† Some features of the college environment—frequent unsupervised parties, easy access to alcohol, single students living on their own, and the availability of private rooms— may contribute to high rape rates of women college students.

†† For instance, private colleges and major universities have higher than national average rates, while religiously affiliated institutions have lower than average rates (Sanday 1996). Also, students at two-year institutions (15.6%) were significantly more likely than those at four-year institutions (11.1%) to report they had been forced during their lifetime to have sexual intercourse (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1995). [Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance: National College Health Risk Behavior Survey -- United States, 1995] [YRBSS - National College Health Risk Behavior Survey (NCHRBS)]

College women are raped at significantly higher rates than college men. College men are more likely to report experiencing unwanted kissing or fondling than intercourse.5 College men who are raped are usually raped by other men. However, since so few men report, information is limited about the extent of the problem.6 Even current national data collection systems fail to capture information about rape of men; the FBI's Uniform Crime Report (UCR) does not provide data on male rape victims.†† Researchers have begun to fill this information gap with survey data, which suggest that up to 10 percent of acquaintance rape victims on campus are men.7 Since so little information is available about acquaintance rape of college men, this guide focuses on college women.

† Women are also the victims in the vast majority of rapes not involving college students.

†† FBI data also do not capture most acquaintance rapes of women since the FBI only requires reporting of rapes that involve force or fear.

The most recent large-scale study, including students at both two- and four-year colleges, found 35 rapes per 1,000 female students over seven months8 (rape was defined as "unwanted completed penetration by force or threat of force"). Based on this study, a college with 10,000 women students could experience 350 rapes a year. This conflicts with official college data.††† In 1999, reported forcible and nonforcible sexual offenses totaled 2,469 incidents for all U.S. college campuses combined,9 underscoring the low levels of rape reporting.

††† Congress enacted the Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act of 1990 [U.S.C. 1092(f)(1)], covering all colleges and universities receiving federal funds, and a 1992 amendment to the act requires campuses to spell out rape victims' rights and to annually publish information on prevention programs. A 1998 amendment added reporting obligations and renamed the act the Jeanne Cleary Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. Jeanne Cleary's rape and murder on a college campus brought to light some of the inadequacies both in knowledge of the problem and in college reporting of crime.

Stranger rape of college students is less common than acquaintance rape. Ninety percent of college women who are victims of rape or attempted rape know their assailant.10 The attacker is usually a classmate, friend, boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, or other acquaintance (in that order).11,†††† Most acquaintance rapes do not occur on dates; rather they occur when two people are otherwise in the same place (e.g., at a party, studying together in a dorm room). Thus, "date rape" (rape that occurs during or at the end of a date) is not the appropriate term to describe the majority of acquaintance rapes of college women, as date rapes account for only 13 percent of college rapes (although they make up 35 percent of attempted rapes).12 Gang rape of college women (multiple men taking turns raping a woman) is also a problem, although to a lesser extent than even date rape.13

†††† The most recent survey on college rape "did not find that college professors committed any of the rapes or sexual coercions; however, they were involved in a small percentage of the unwanted sexual touching" (Fisher, Cullen and Turner 2000). [Full text]

Victim Underreporting

Fewer than 5 percent of college women who are victims of rape or attempted rape report it to police.14 However, about two-thirds of the victims tell someone, often a friend (but usually not a family member or college official). In one study, over 40 percent of those raped who did not report the incident said they did not do so because they feared reprisal by the assailant or others.15 In addition, some rape victims may fear the emotional trauma of the legal process itself. Low reporting, however, ensures that few victims receive adequate help, most offenders are neither confronted nor prosecuted, and colleges are left in the dark about the extent of the problem.16

Many acquaintance rape victims (using the legal definition of rape) do not label their assault as rape. Perhaps it seems unimaginable that an acquaintance would rape them, and victims often initially blame themselves. Acquaintance rape victims offer a range of reasons for not reporting the rape to authorities:17

† One of the largest studies of the problem found that in nearly half the incidents legally categorized as completed rapes, the women did not consider the incident to be a rape (Fisher, Cullen and Turner 2000). [Full text]

Some police officers believe that there is an unusually high rate of false rape reports (by both college students and the general population of women). The FBI does not separately track false reports; it tracks only the total number of unfounded reports. The category of "unfounded" consists of both baseless cases—in which the elements of the crime were never met—and false reports. In 1998, unfounded rape reports accounted for 8 percent of total reported rapes; however, this number is questionable. Some police officers incorrectly think that a rape report is unfounded or false if any of the following conditions apply:

† For more detailed information about unfounded allegations and the need for accurate training on this subject, see: www.vaw.umn.edu/documents/acquaintsa/acquaintsa.shtml.

Types of Acquaintance Rape

In examining the problem of acquaintance rape of college students (which, as noted, accounts for 90 percent of college rapes), it is important to define the subproblems for analysis, investigation and prevention purposes. Among them are:

In each case, the offender's behavior before the attack and the contributing environmental factors during the attack may be different. For instance, the typical party rape occurs at an off-campus house or on- or off-campus fraternity and involves the offender's plying a woman with alcohol or targeting an intoxicated woman. Environmental factors that could facilitate the rape include easy access to alcohol, availability of a private room, loud music that drowns out the woman's calls, and, potentially, a cover-up by the house's residents, who may choose to maintain group secrecy over reporting the rape. By contrast, a date rape typically involves two people who are just becoming acquainted, and the offender rapes the woman in a car or residence after the date. [Stranger rapes tend to occur in isolated areas of campus (e.g., parking lots or campus garages) or in the woman's dorm room. In these cases, the victim usually has not drunk any alcohol, and there is no prior relationship or even acquaintance between the victim and the rapist.

† For a discussion of the need to study different types of acquaintance rape, see Koss and Cleveland (1996).

Refining recordkeeping to include subtypes of acquaintance rape allows police to better understand the dynamics of rape, design prevention around the subtypes, and improve rape investigations within the subtypes.

† Although this guide does not focus on investigation, it is important to mention that the defendant generally does not claim consent as a defense in a stranger rape case. Thus, the investigation need not focus intensely on disproving consent. However, in an acquaintance rape case, consent is the most likely defense. Disproving consent becomes the most important part of the investigation. It also follows that evidence of nonconsent in a party rape will differ from that of nonconsent for a date rape that occurred in a car.

In addition, there are patterns regarding time (temporal), place (geographic), victim injuries, victim resistance, fear of rape, psychological harm to victims, and attitudes about acquaintance rape. These patterns are outlined below.††

†† Some of the research covers data for both acquaintance and stranger rape of college students. Since nearly 90 percent of the time, college rape victims know their assailant, these temporal, geographic and victim resistance patterns would likely apply to college acquaintance rape, although perhaps with some slight variations.

Temporal Patterns

College students are the most vulnerable to rape during the first few weeks of the freshman In fact, the first few days of the freshman year are the riskiest, limiting the value of any rape prevention programs that begin after that. Research has shown that rapes of college women tend to occur after 6 p.m., and the majority occur after midnight.19

Geographic Patterns

Thirty-four percent of completed rapes and 45 percent of attempted rapes take place on campus.20 Almost 60 percent of the completed campus rapes that take place on campus occur in the victim's residence, 31 percent occur in another residence, and 10 percent occur in a fraternity

Victim Injuries

Only 20 percent of college rape victims have additional injuries, most often bruises, black eyes, cuts, swelling, or chipped teeth.22 Thus, investigative practices should be modified to obtain more subtle evidence of lack of consent, rather than just use of force.

Victim Resistance

Slightly more than 50 percent of college rape and attempted rape victims use force against their assailant, and 50 percent tell the person to stop. Most victims try to stop a rape by doing one of the following: using force, telling the assailant to stop, screaming, begging, or running away.23

Fear of Rape

The fear of rape is widespread among college women, although they fear stranger rape more than acquaintance rape, even though the latter is much more common.24 College women—even those aware of acquaintance rape's pervasiveness—take more precautions to guard against stranger rape—even if they have been a victim of acquaintance rape.25

Psychological Harm to Victims

Acquaintance rape victims suffer the same psychological harms as stranger-rape victims: shock, humiliation, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, loss of self-esteem, social isolation, anger, distrust of others, fear of AIDS, guilt, and sexual dysfunction.26 College acquaintance rape victims face additional consequences. Many drop out of school27 because, if they stay, they might regularly face their attacker in class, in their dorm, in the dining hall, or at campus functions and events. Since most victims do not report, colleges cannot intervene to protect them from reencountering their attackers.

Risk Factors Associated with Acquaintance Rape

Societal Attitudes About Acquaintance Rape

During the 1990s, researchers found that attitudes about acquaintance rape victims improved. However, in general, college students, campus administrators, police, prosecutors, judges, and juries still overwhelmingly view and treat acquaintance rape less seriously than stranger rape, sustaining the myth that stranger rape is "real rape," while acquaintance rape is less serious and less harmful. College studies still find that many on campus, both men and women, have little understanding of acquaintance rape because, as discussed below, it is a much more complex crime than stranger rape.

Rape myths allow us to believe that a "real rape" is one in which a victim is raped by a stranger who jumps out of the bushes with a weapon, and in which she fought back, was beaten and bruised, reported the event to the police, and had medical evidence collected immediately. In a "real rape," the victim has never had sex with the assailant before, is preferably a virgin, was not intoxicated, was not wearing seductive clothing, and has a good reputation. …Unfortunately, acquaintance sexual assaults contain few, if any, of those elements. In many acquaintance rape situations, the victim had been drinking, did voluntarily go with the man to his apartment or room, was not threatened with a weapon, did not fight back, did not report the event to the police immediately, did not have medical evidence collected, and may have even had sex with the assailant voluntarily before.28

Risk Factors Associated With Acquaintance Rape

Understanding the factors that contribute to your problem will help you frame your own local analysis questions, determine good effectiveness measures, recognize key intervention points, and select appropriate responses.

Acquaintance rape is less random and more preventable than stranger rape.29 A woman's condition or behavior does not cause rape, but certain factors appear to increase a woman's vulnerability to it:

Repeat Victimization

Numerous studies of campus rape have found that a small number of victims are repeat victims.39 One of the largest studies to date found that 22.8 percent of college rape victims had been victimized before.40 College women most at risk of rape are those who were previously victims of childhood or teen sexual assault.41 Prior victims are nearly twice as likely to be raped in college than those with no previous history of sexual assault.42 "Adolescent/ young adult victimization is the most robust risk factor for victimization in the college years, and victimization in one semester predicts victimization in the following semester."43 Some researchers believe that college men can sense out women who are less able to defend themselves, or target women whose behavior (e.g., binge drinking) weakens their credibility. 44

Repeat Offending

It is unknown how many college rapists are repeat offenders. Most college acquaintance rapists go unpunished (in part because reporting is so low), so the number of serial offenses are difficult to determine. However, one study found that 96 college men accounted for 187 rapes, 45 suggesting that further research may establish that serial rapists are a common component of the acquaintance rape problem. Lack of reporting complicates the problem, since it may prevent colleges from identifying and ridding themselves of their most dangerous students.

Why Some College Men Rape

In studies in the early 1980s and 1990s, approximately one-third of college men reported they would rape a woman if they knew they would not get caught. 46 Given the number of college women raped, researchers have tried to explain the problem's prevalence:

Alcohol's Role in Acquaintance Rape

Alcohol appears to play a large role in acquaintance rape, although it is not the cause. Research indicates that in over three-quarters of college rapes, the offender, the victim or both had been drinking. 52 Researchers provide several explanations for alcohol's presence in so many rapes:53

Research has found that when alcohol or drugs are involved in acquaintance rape—which is frequently the case—peers tend to hold women more responsible for the rape, and men less responsible for it.

Athletic Teams, Fraternities and Acquaintance Rape

College athletes are disproportionately reported to campus judicial officers for acquaintance rape.56 It is unclear whether they actually offend more, or whether students tend to report them more (perhaps angered by athletes' esteemed and privileged status). On some campuses, revenue-generating athletes (usually football and basketball players) may believe they are immune to campus rules (and sometimes are), and take advantage of "groupies" or other women they perceive as sexually interested in them.57

As for fraternities, a disproportionate number of documented gang rapes involve fraternity members. Research on reported gang rapes committed by college students from 1980 to 1990 found that fraternity members committed 55 percent of them.58 Fraternities often have a unique place on campus; they are typically housed in private residences (with many private rooms) and hold large unsupervised parties, often with free-flowing alcohol. Some fraternity members approve of getting a woman drunk to have sex. This, combined with some fraternities' emphasis on loyalty above identifying members who rape, has put fraternities in the center of controversy because a disproportionate number of reported rapes occur on their property. A number of researchers believe that certain fraternities, because of their practices, are more rapeprone than others, placing sorority members (and other frequent women attendees at fraternity parties) at greater risk of rape. Some researchers also believe that binge drinking makes certain fraternities high risk for rape. Many national Greek organizations now require education for their local chapters concerning sexual assault and alcohol consumption, and some now mandate "dry" houses.

† Humphrey and Kahn (2000) found that college women correctly identify the campus fraternities and athletic teams that are high risk and low risk for rape, based on the type of parties they have had.

Legal Obligations of Colleges

The more that acquaintance rape remains a hidden crime, the less incentive that schools have to invest sufficiently in its prevention. Stranger rape results in dramatic and unwelcome publicity for colleges. Administrators try to prevent such victimization by putting cameras in parking garages, running late-night student escort and/or shuttle services, deploying student patrols, placing emergency telephones throughout campus, locking buildings to prevent strangers from entering, trimming obstructive foliage, and improving the lighting in dark or less-traveled areas. The costs of these prevention initiatives far exceed the dollars spent on acquaintance rape prevention, even though acquaintance rape is a much more likely occurrence. Increased reporting—even anonymous reporting—may push colleges to further invest in more effective acquaintance rape prevention.

Colleges have a legal duty to warn students of known risks and to provide reasonable protection.59 If a crime is foreseeable, then a college can be held liable for not sufficiently protecting against it. As noted, acquaintance rape is the most common violent crime on college campuses.60 If "acquaintance rape(s) occur at predictable times and places, the school must make reasonable efforts to prevent a recurrence; and the school may be liable if it fails to deal effectively with repeat student offenders, including rapists, whose conduct eventually results in more damage."61

Understanding Your Local Problem

The information provided is only a generalized description of acquaintance rape of college students. You must combine the basic facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response strategy.

Asking the Right Questions

The following are some critical questions you should ask in analyzing your particular acquaintance rape problem, even if the answers are not always readily available. Your answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on. Victims



Current Responses

Measuring Your Effectiveness

You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses, to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them, to determine whether they have been effective. Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results. (For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the companion guide to this series, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.)

The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to acquaintance rape of college students.

Process Measures

The following process measures assess whether responses designed to reduce acquaintance rape were implemented:

Impact Measures

The following impact measures might indicate that acquaintance rape has decreased:

Responses to the Problem of Acquaintance Rape of College Students

Researchers suggest that educational programs are the most effective acquaintance rape prevention approach. At this point, there is no research to suggest whether other interventions, such as having only single-sex residence halls , enforcing residence halls visitation rules, placing anti-acquaintance rape educational posters in residence halls, or banning alcohol on campus, are effective in preventing acquaintance rape.

General Considerations About Acquaintance Rape Prevention Programs

Because acquaintance rape of college students often involves conflicting accounts of what occurred and, without the help of witnesses, determining which account is more credible, tailored prevention is the primary approach police, especially campus police, should use. Typically, the campus police role in rape prevention consists of providing self-defense training, doing environmental assessments of outdoor areas vulnerable to rape, and recommending the installation of cameras, lights, locks, etc. There is a strong argument that these approaches do not focus on preventing the most prevalent type of campus rape: acquaintance rape. If campus police predominantly invest in such approaches, the message to students is that “real rape” is stranger rape, and that is what police prevent, while acquaintance rape prevention is left to other campus departments or student organizations.

Educational programs should involve multiple intervention efforts, with repeated and reinforced exposure to the issue.62 Police and other trained professionals should conduct the programs before the most high-risk times, and again at later intervals, tailoring them to high-risk groups. Programs should focus on changing behavior, not just attitudes, and program evaluations must be done to determine if the various components are effective for your particular population.

† For a full discussion of evaluating rape prevention programs, see Chapter 6 in Finn (1995) [Full text], and for a thorough discussion of the effectiveness of typical college rape prevention programs, see Yeater and O'Donohue (1999) [Full text].

Generally, researchers suggest that most college rape prevention programs suffer from several weaknesses:63

Mixed-Gender, Gender-Specific and Peer-Delivered Programs

Mixed-gender programs show uneven results in changing rape-supportive attitudes.64 Consequently, a number of researchers advocate separate programs for men and women to address gender-specific issues. Such programs may also remove the fear of discussing rape in front of peers of the opposite sex. Some colleges use trained students to conduct programs; however, the use of peer educators, male or female, remains unexamined empirically.65 In addition, there is no evidence that student role-playing is more effective than a combined lecture/video approach.66 Program Timing

As noted earlier, the risk of rape is highest during the freshman year, beginning with the first day of school. If police or college administrators cannot provide rape prevention programs on the first day of freshman orientation, they can mail letters to students and parents before freshman fall classes start, addressing rape and the relevant rules, laws and consequences; the letters should also stress the importance of parents' educating students about acceptable conduct.

† Letters to parents may be effective in widening interest in the problem. One university asked the parents of incoming freshmen to speak with their son or daughter about rape (as well as several other problems that are significant for freshmen such as binge drinking and hate crimes). At another university, after a gang rape at a fraternity party, the campus police sent a letter warning parents of incoming freshmen, as well as insurance carriers, about fraternities in violation of alcohol laws (Bernstein 1996).

Key Responses

Outlined below are key elements of acquaintance rape prevention responses targeting different campus groups.

  1. Conducting acquaintance rape prevention programs for college men in general. Programs for men should focus on rape reduction. Attendance should be mandatory, both at the initial program and at follow-up programs during the freshman year and at the start of the sophomore year. Key program elements should include the following:
    • A preprogram survey of the men's knowledge of and behavior concerning acquaintance rape.
    • The provision of accurate definitions of stranger, acquaintance, party, gang, and date rape, and information about related state laws and sanctions, as well as college rules and sanctions. Each state has different rape laws; in many states, the use of physical force is no longer a requirement for a rape to have occurred.
    • The use of realistic scenarios to illustrate risky situations in which men may find themselves.††

      †† One campus public safety director collaborated with the municipal police department to create a scenario-based brochure to educate male students about sexual assault and rape reduction. They also developed a scenario-based brochure tailored to women college students.

    • A comparison of the frequency of acquaintance rape with that of stranger rape.
    • A discussion of the relationship between rape and alcohol use.†††

      ††† Researchers agree about the importance of combining rape prevention programs for college students with substance abuse prevention programs, especially regarding binge drinking. Typically, substance abuse prevention programs focus on risks such as drunken driving, fistfights and vandalism, but the main emphases should be on the risks of sexual miscommunication and rape (Abbey et al. 1996).

    • A discussion about consent, including the use of consent scenarios to show what is required. Men cannot legally engage in intercourse without explicit consent. State laws require consent, and in most states, it cannot be obtained if the person is drunk.
    • A discussion of commonly held misconceptions about a man's “right” to sex (e.g., if the man has paid for dinner, if the woman is dressed seductively, if the man thinks the woman is a “tease” or flirt, if the man thinks the woman has a crush on him).
    • A discussion about “scoring” and how it devalues women by treating them as objects of conquest.
    • An emphasis that the harm acquaintance rape victims suffer is the same as that suffered by stranger-rape victims.
    • A discussion of counseling services for men who want to change their behavior.
    • A discussion of men's role in stopping acquaintance rape.
    • A review of the investigative and disciplinary processes for rape cases, and of the consequences for rape and for seeking reprisal against the victim.
    • A follow-up survey several months after the programs to assess knowledge retention and behavioral change.
  2. Conducting acquaintance rape risk-reduction programs for college women. Even though the vast majority of college rapes entail men raping women, interventions geared toward changing only men's behavior will not be 100 percent effective. It is also important to provide risk reduction programs for women. Outlined below are program elements researchers suggest.
    • A preprogram survey of women's knowledge of acquaintance rape, risk factors and risk reduction techniques.
    • The provision of accurate definitions of stranger, acquaintance, party, gang, and date rape, and information about related state laws and sanctions, as well as college rules and sanctions.
    • The use of realistic scenarios to illustrate risky situations in which college women may find themselves.
    • A comparison of the frequency of acquaintance rape with that of stranger rape. Research suggests that many women are in denial about their risk for acquaintance rape. Although some women are knowledgeable about acquaintance rape, they think it is more likely to happen to others than to themselves.67
    • An emphasis that the harm acquaintance rape victims suffer is the same as that suffered by stranger-rape victims.
    • A discussion of the need for explicit consent.
    • A discussion of accurate labeling of rape. Acknowledging when an assault occurs and the importance of reporting in stemming repeat offending.
    • A discussion of risk factors, including the potential for repeat victimization.
    • A discussion of how friends can help and support acquaintance rape victims.
    • A review of the investigative and disciplinary processes for rape cases.
    • A discussion of counseling services for rape victims.
    • A follow-up survey several months after the programs to assess knowledge retention and behavioral change.
    Research has found that comprehensive programs with these key components can reduce sexual victimization of college women by up to half, but only for those women who have not previously been raped or experienced attempted rape.

    † Hanson and Gidycz (1993). For a discussion of the need for different training for rape victims and attempted rape victims, see Breitenbecher and Scarce (1999).

  3. Developing risk reduction plans to prevent repeat victimization. Police must develop specific programs for women raped prior to college, as researchers have found that the programs described above do not reduce their risk for repeat victimization.68 It is theorized that women who have previously been raped require additional training to accurately assess risky situations.69 Police should enlist campus counselors to develop tailored risk recognition and reduction plans for prior victims.†† Counselors should intermittently recontact the women to determine if the plans have been effective, and to track repeat victimization in order to improve programs and safety plans.

    †† Representatives from campus counseling services should attend rape education programs and offer to meet privately with victims, helping them design individualized safety plans to reduce their risk of repeat victimization.

  4. Educating police about acquaintance rape of college students. Educating police about the extent of acquaintance rape (compared with stranger rape) of college students, and about the patterns related to it, can provide them with an important background context. The training should cover the research on high-risk times and high-risk groups, the elements of effective rape prevention programs, and the need for police involvement in the programs.††† Police involvement can help assure students that the college takes acquaintance rape seriously.

    ††† Although this guide does not address investigative issues, it is important to note that police training for acquaintance rape investigations must include components on evidence gathering when the offender will likely claim consent. For information about the different investigative methods for acquaintance vs. stranger rape cases, see material published by the National Center for Women and Policing.

  5. Conducting acquaintance rape prevention programs for college administrators, campus judicial officers and other key campus personnel. Top campus administrators should be called upon to clear the way for police to provide education and prevention programming in residence halls , fraternities and sororities, to athletic teams, and incoming students during orientation.70 It is also necessary to educate all campus healthcare staff, residence directors and assistants, and Greek advisors about rape, as well as advise counseling personnel about the need to track anonymous reporting, ask students about prior rapes, and develop safety plans for prior victims. In addition, police must educate athletic coaches about rape prevention. Some coaches will not need much persuading, others may be convinced of its importance as a means of keeping their athletes from jeopardizing their own or their team's reputation. Since coach support of rape prevention programs is crucial for success, police may want to advocate that coaches' active participation in the programs be used as one measure in coaches' performance evaluations.††

    † Police should ask those in college counseling services to develop indepth interview protocols for rape victims, including questions about prior victimization. Counselors should develop safety plans with victims that help them more accurately assess risky situations.

    †† It is also wise to provide adequate information to faculty, particularly those whom rape victims are likely to approach because their courses cover rape (e.g., psychology, sociology, women's studies, criminology, and criminal justice faculty). Police can also recruit faculty to conduct or participate in rape prevention programs.

  6. Conducting acquaintance rape prevention programs geared toward campus athletes and fraternity members. Acquaintance rape prevention programs should be tailored to focus on the specific risks for athletes††† and fraternity members. Program elements researchers suggest include the following:

    ††† If athletes are educated about rape only after an incident occurs, they may perceive it a punishment rather than a proactive rape prevention effort.

    • A preprogram survey of athletes' and fraternity members' knowledge of and behavior concerning acquaintance rape.
    • An emphasis on athletes' using aggression only on the field.††††

      †††† Many of the gang rape charges involving athletes “seem to involve members of such contact team sports as football, basketball and lacrosse, rather than athletes from such individual nonaggressive sports as tennis and golf ” (Parrot et al. 1994).

    • A discussion stressing that athletes' prominent status on campus does not entitle them to sex. Women must freely give consent.
    • A discussion stressing that athletes should not equate the behavior of some women fans with that of all women, and that a fan's perceived interest in an athlete does not constitute consent.
    • A discussion of the increased risk of rape when allmale groups (such as athletes and fraternity members) live together in houses with private rooms, where parties are frequent, and where alcohol is available.
    • Realistic approaches athletes and fraternity members can use to counter any “group think” supporting male sexual dominance of females and the myth that women secretly want to be sexually overtaken.
    • Approaches for resisting pressure to participate in “group sex” acts.
    • An emphasis on the importance of intervening in and reporting rape, despite team or fraternity pressure to maintain secrecy.
    • Follow-up assessments to determine behavioral change.

Responses With Limited Effectiveness

  1. Providing student escort and/or shuttle services. Many colleges have student escort and/or shuttle services so that women do not have to walk alone on campus late at night. These services may reduce the risk of stranger rape, but not of acquaintance rape; they do not take the place of adequate acquaintance rape prevention.
  2. Providing rape aggression defense training. Many college public safety departments offer women students rape aggression defense training to increase their ability to fend off would-be rapists. Police now commonly include such training in acquaintance rape prevention programs, no longer focusing only on stranger rape. Researchers find that this training is:
    • too limited to cause significant reductions in acquaintance rape,
    • not sufficiently focused on the most prevalent types of campus rape, and
    • inadequate for causing any behavioral change in male students.71

Colleges may choose to include the training in their stranger rape reduction efforts; however, it is unlikely to reduce acquaintance rape.

Additional Resources

Fitzgerald, Nora and K. Jack Riley (2000) Drug-Facilitated Rape: Looking for the Missing Pieces, NIJ Journal, April. — jr000243c.pdf [PDF]

ONDCP Drug Policy Information Clearinghouse Fact Sheet “Rohypnol” — rohypnol.pdf [PDF]

Summary of Responses

The table below summarizes the responses to acquaintance rape of college students, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Key Responses
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
1 Conducting acquaintance rape prevention programs for college men in general Removes excuses for rape by increasing men's knowledge …programs are designed to change behavior, not just attitudes, and coincide with high-risk times Finding adequate time for programs before or during high risk times; researchers recommend combining the programs with prevention programming targeting other forms of sexual assault and also with substance abuse revention programs
2 Conducting acquaintance rape risk-reduction programs for college women Increases the effort offenders must make to commit rape and increases offenders' risk that they will be identified …programs are designed to change behavior, not just increase knowledge It is the victim's choice whether to report a rape and identify the offender; however, colleges should strongly support reporting, even anonymous reporting
3 Developing risk reduction plans to prevent repeat victimization Increases the effort offenders must make …college counseling personnel work with prior victims—without blaming them—to develop individualized risk reduction plans May be difficult to identify prior victims; victims must choose to come forward and may do so only if they think more good than harm will come from it
4 Educating police about acquaintance rape of college students Increases the likelihood that police will participate in developing appropriate rape reduction initiatives for students …police are trained before classes start Often requires police to examine their prevention and investigation approaches to acquaintance rape
5 Conducting acquaintance rape prevention programs for college administrators, campus judicial officers and other key campus personnel Increases campus personnel's knowledge and enables personnel to appropriately deal with victims and offenders …programs are completed before classes start Requires extensive coordination, open access to campus personnel, and school leaders' commitment to support rape prevention efforts
6 Conducting acquaintance rape prevention programs geared toward campus athletes and fraternity members Removes excuses for rape by changing men's attitudes toward women and setting explicit rules …coaches, fraternity leaders and fraternity alumni leaders support the programs Programs should be presented as a means to prevent harm, not as a punishment
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
# Response How It Works Works Best If... Considerations
7 Providing student escort and/or shuttle services Reduces the risk of stranger rape …combined with comprehensive efforts to reduce acquaintance rape Campus women's groups often advocate these services
8 Providing rape aggression defense training Increases the effort stranger rapists must make …combined with comprehensive efforts to reduce acquaintance rape, in particular Campus women's groups often advocate this training


    [1]Finn (1995); Weitzman, DeJong and Finn (n.d.).[Full text]

    [2]Humphrey and Kahn (2000).

    [3]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000).[Full text]

    [4]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000), based on the extrapolation of a six-month data set.[Full text] Also see Koss, Gidycz and Wisniewski (1987) for similar results.

    [5]Waldner-Haugrud and Magruder (1995).

    [6]Abbey (1991).

    [7]Benson, Charton and Goodhart (1992).

    [8]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000).[Full text]

    [9]U.S. Department of Education (2001).[Full text]

    [10]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000). [Full text]

    [11]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000).[Full text]

    [12]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000).[Full text]

    [13]Bohmer and Parrot (1993).

    [14]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000).[Full text]

    [15]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000).[Full text]

    [16]Benson, Charton and Goodhart (1992).

    [17]Bohmer and Parrot (1993).

    [18]Ostrander and Schwartz (1994); Schwartz and DeKeseredy (1997).

    [19]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000).[Full text]

    [20]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000). [Full text]

    [21]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000). [Full text]

    [22]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000). [Full text]

    [23]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000). [Full text]

    [24]Hickman and Muehlenhard (1997).

    [25]Hickman and Muehlenhard (1997).

    [26]Yeater and O'Donohue (1999). [Full text]

    [27]Finn (1995).[Full text]

    [28]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000). [Full text]

    [29]Himelein (1995).

    [30]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000).[Full text]

    [31]Schwartz and DeKeseredy (1997).

    [32]See Hanson and Gidycz (1993) for a discussion of the research on risk factors.

    [33]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000); Himelein (1995). See Hanson and Gidycz (1993) for a discussion of the research on this subject.[Full text]

    [34]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000). [Full text]

    [35]Schwartz and Pitts (1995).

    [36]See Hanson and Gidycz (1993) for a discussion of the research on risk factors.

    [37]See Hanson and Gidycz (1993) for a discussion of the research on risk factors.

    [38]Himelein (1995).

    [39]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000); Hanson and Gidycz (1993). Also see Schwartz and DeKeseredy (1997) for a discussion of research on sexual assault repeat victimization.[Full text]

    [40]Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000).[Full text]

    [41]Hanson and Gidycz (1993); Fisher, Cullen and Turner (2000). [Full text]

    [42]Hanson and Gidycz (1993), reporting on research by Gidycz.

    [43]Greene and Navarro (1998).

    [44]Greene and Navarro (1998).

    [45]For a discussion of college male repeat rape offending see Schwartz and DeKeseredy (1997).

    [46]Fisher and Sloan (1995).

    [47]Earle (1996).

    [48]Schwartz and DeKeseredy (1997).

    [49]Schwartz and DeKeseredy (1997).

    [50]Schwartz and DeKeseredy (1997).

    [51]Schwartz and DeKeseredy (1997).

    [52]Abbey et al. (1996).

    [53]Abbey (1991). For recent research on college binge drinking, binge drinking rates for athletes and fraternity members, and the increased risk of rape, see Wechsler (2000), at http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/cas/Documents/monograph_2000/ cas_mono_2000.pdf

    [54]Abbey (1991).

    [55]See Abbey (1991) for a general discussion of the research on this subject.

    [56]Koss and Cleveland (1996).

    [57]Fisher and Sloan (1995); Koss and Gaines (1993).

    [58]Bohmer and Parrot (1993).

    [59]Finn (1995).[Full text]

    [60]Finn (1995); Weitzman, DeJong and Finn (n.d.).[Full text]

    [61]Finn (1995).[Full text]

    [62]Finn (1995).[Full text]

    [63]Lonsway (1996).

    [64]Lonsway (1996). See Earle (1996) for a discussion of programs for first-year male students.

    [65]Lonsway (1996).

    [66]Forst, Lightfoot and Burrichter (1996).

    [67]Hickman and Muehlenhard (1997).

    [68]Hanson and Gidycz (1993).

    [69]Norris, Nurius and Graham (1999).

    [70]Finn (1995).[Full text]

    [71]Lonsway (1996).


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