Beginning in the fall when they arrived on campus and continuing through the following summer, 18.6 percent of freshmen women surveyed at a university in upstate New York in 2010 endured at least one — completed or attempted rape, according to a new study that is the is the first to examine the risk of sexual attack on first-year women in detail.
“It’s an important transition year,” said lead and corresponding author Kate Carey, professor of behavioral and social sciences in the Brown University School of Public Health and Brown’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies. “People are usually moving away from home for the first time, they are experimenting with a lot of freedoms including the use of alcohol and other drugs and learning how to live by themselves. We have a better sense after our research of what are the risks within that first transition year.”
The study, published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health, is based on questionnaires of 483 participants. It counted self-reports of completed or attempted forcible rape and rape while incapacitated, for instance because of drugs or alcohol. The female students, who were demographically representative of the school’s overall freshman class, answered the standardized survey questions when they arrived on campus, at the end of fall semester, at the end of spring semester, and again after the following summer.
The study defined rape as “vaginal, oral, or anal penetration using threats of violence or use of physical force, or using the tactic of victim incapacitation.” Thus, the study data do not conflate other forms of sexual misconduct such as unwanted touching or verbal abuse with the incidence of rape.