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  • University of California, Santa Barbara students protesting against sexual violence and hate crimes in 2014.

    University of California, Santa Barbara students protesting against sexual violence and hate crimes in 2014. | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 September 2015

New study confirms that sexual abuse is high on university campuses, but fails to answer why or how to combat it.

Over 20 percent of studentsparticularly women, homosexuals and transgender people – enrolled in United States universities have been victim of sexual abuse, according to a new study released Monday. 

The study by the Association of American Universities is one of the largest conducted on the topic of sexual abuse in higher learning institutions in the U.S., what has been a growing problem over the years. 

RELATED: The War Against Women: College Campuses and American Culture

The study surveyed 27 universities and interviewed over 150,000 students across the country, ranging from private and public to ivy league schools. 

Though results varied across the institutions, the report found that women as well as those identifying as transgender, gender queer, questioning, nonconforming (TGQN) experienced by far the highest rates of sexual assault – an average of 33 percent of all women and 39.1 percent of TGQN persons. 

The number was also found to be higher among undergraduate women and TGQN persons compared to graduate or professional levels. 

Among those who reported experiencing sexual assault, the vast majority did not bother reporting it to officials because they either did not think it was serious enough (some 50 percent) or they thought nothing would come of it. This included acts where forced penetration was involved, but also sexual touching. 

According to the study, only 28 percent of cases were reported.  

The study does acknowledge criticisms that the reported figures may be too high considering non-victims may have been less likely to participate in the survey. 

“This might have contributed to some of the differences observed between schools,” said the authors of the report, “although indications are that this was not a large effect.”

Some, including Slate Magazine, have criticized the report for providing figures about “what we already know,” rather than attempting to draw insight from the figures. 

This includes attempting to answer questions such as, “What is rape culture? Is it any culture where rape happens? What factors—from institutional identity, to social traditions, to disciplinary code—combat such a culture and instead promote equality on campus? What factors undermine sexual safety and respect?” reported Slate.  

However, many of the participating universities have made their results public to the media, which suggests that they may be open to seeking such solutions.  

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