Twenty percent of college students in the past four years were sexually assaulted, according to a new poll.
Many others endured attempted attacks, or suspect that someone violated them while they were unable to consent, according to the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
In all, the poll found 25 percent of women and 7 percent of men say they suffered unwanted sexual incidents in college.
Other results showed:
- Forty-six percent of respondents said it’s unclear whether sexual activity when both people have not given clear agreement is sexual assault. Forty-seven percent called that scenario sexual assault.
- Thirty-seven percent described it as a problem on campus. But 56 percent viewed alcohol and drug use as a problem.
- More than two-thirds gave their schools an A or a B for their handling of complaints. Just 8 percent gave their schools a D or an F.
The margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
The Post-Kaiser poll comes as debate rages over statistics on rape at the nation's colleges – and concludes sexual assault is often connected to factors in the campus culture itself, including drinking, "hookups" and the presence of fraternities and sororities.
"The issue has gained new urgency in recent years as the number of reports of forcible sex offenses on campus has surged," the Post reports, noting the Obama administration has opened civil rights investigations of more than 110 colleges and universities for their handling of sexual-violence complaints.
But there's also a raging debate on the extent of the problem.
President Barack Obama, relying heavily on a 2007 federally-funded study of students at two unidentified public universities, said last year that
"an estimated one in five women has been sexually assaulted during her college years."
The figures were disputed, however, after a 2014 study
from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics found college women were victims of rape or sexual assault at an annual rate of 6.1 per 1,000. Non-students, the BJS said, were raped or sexually assaulted more often than students.
In the past two years, colleges have begun campaigns to prevent sexual assault, the Post notes, but the poll found deep skepticism about some proposals, with 73 percent of students at schools with Greek-letter organization saying booting fraternities or sororities will have little to no effect, and about half of the respondents doubting the effectiveness of a crackdown on alcohol.
Instead, the poll found, nine in 10 said training students to disrupt potentially harmful situations would be effective, and 85 percent favored harsher punishments for those found guilty of sexual assault.
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