The Most Dangerous Schools for Women

Enrolling in college for the first time is an important milestone in a person’s life. You have to consider which social organizations to join, how early your classes should be, and just how many packs of Ramen noodles can be consumed in a semester. Most college freshmen greet the year with excitement, rarely considering that their safety might be threatened.

The truth is that college campuses are not always safe havens. Young women become the victims of sexual assaults and rapes on college campuses each year, and perhaps more frightening is that many of them go unreported. For many women, the possibility of being raped isn’t at the forefront of their minds when they begin college. While it doesn’t need to be the main focus, it doesn’t hurt for women to be aware of the number of crimes against women on their particular campus.

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook, by definition sexual attacks on men are excluded from the rape category and must be classified as assaults or other sex offenses, depending on the nature of the crime and the extent of injury. Using statistics from the FBI on the number of forcible rapes reported at colleges and universities in 2011, we have compiled a list of the most dangerous schools for women.

  • University of California, Los Angeles:

    UCLA has the largest enrollment of all campuses in the University of California system and is the most applied-to university in the nation. However, with 12 forcible rapes reported in 2011 and a controversial #1 ranking on Business Insider‘s Most Dangerous Colleges List, UCLA has had to weather its share of media storms recently. In early 2012, there was a report of a woman being assaulted on campus on a certain set of steps UCLA students themselves have dubbed the “Rape Trail”.

  • University of Richmond:

    This private, liberal arts institution of just over 3,000 students reported nine forcible rapes in 2011. An article from Feb. 2009 published in The Collegian, the university’s independent student newspaper, stated that rape was the most underreported crime on campus. The article also indicated that often times lack of physical evidence make it difficult to prosecute rape cases.

  • Washington State University:

    Though WSU’s website states the school enjoys a lower crime rate than many more populated areas and is ranked one of the safest major university campuses, eight forcible rapes were reported in 2011. The institution was also fined the same year for violating campus crime reporting laws stemming from incidences that happened in 2007.

  • Western Illinois University:

    WIU, which ranked 20th on Business Insider‘s list of Most Dangerous Colleges, reported eight forcible rapes in 2011. The school is making an effort to address campus safety, though, by raising awareness on interpersonal violence and offering information on how to get people to report violent crimes that occur on campus.

  • Emory University:

    This private, Atlanta-based institution saw seven forcible rapes reported in 2011. In a two-month span in 2012, the campus had seven different reports of sexual assault. Emory created the Respect Program to help the community prevent and respond to sexual assault and relationship violence.

  • Indiana University-Bloomington:

    IU-Bloomington, which enrolls more students than any other campus in the IU system, reported seven forcible rapes in 2011. Many students and community members are still reeling from the June 2011 disappearance of IU-Bloomington student Lauren Spierer, who was last seen walking to her apartment early in the morning. Spierer has still not been found, and a fund has been set up to help pay for her search.

  • Iowa State University:

    Iowa State University reported seven forcible rapes in 2011. The campus (which is obviously located in Iowa), located in the small town of Ames, also has its share of other minor crimes like bicycle theft and bookstore robberies.

  • Northern Arizona University:

    NAU, based on Flagstaff, ranked 16th in Business Insider‘s list, reported seven forcible rapes in 2011. In May 2012, a 21-year-old male NAU student was indicted for sexually assaulting an 18-year-old student in her dorm room.

  • University of California, Berkeley:

    Ranked second behind only UCLA on Business Insider‘s list. The university reported seven forcible rapes in 2011. In addition, statistics showed an increase in hate crimes between 2009 and 2010.

  • University of Colorado-Boulder:

    UC, the flagship campus of the UC System, reported seven forcible rapes in 2011. Most recently, a UC student faces four felony charges in a sexual assault case. Stemming from the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State University, UC has made efforts to develop a formal reporting policy so that the board is informed of serious crimes that can affect the school’s reputation or financial standing.

  • University of Mississippi-Oxford:

    Commonly referred to as “Ole Miss,” the school reported seven forcible rapes in 2011. The campus also has a history of racial tension, which seems to plague the school today as well. In November, the school dealt with controversy surrounding an alleged hate crime as well as a protest after the re-election of President Barack Obama, in which students shouted racial slurs.

  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University:

    Referred to commonly as Virginia Tech, this Blacksburg campus enrolls 31,000 students. Probably most infamously known for the Virginia Tech Massacre of 2007, in which a student opened fire on campus, killing 33 people (including himself), the school also had seven forcible rapes reported in 2011.

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, commonly referred to as the Clery Act, is a federal law signed in 1990 that requires colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to disclose information about crime that occurs on or near their campus. It was named after Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old Lehigh University student who was murdered by another student in 1986.

According to a 2011 survey, 38% of college students said they would not know how to get help on campus if they found themselves in an abusive relationship, and 58% of students said they would not know how to help if they knew someone was a victim.

The Clery Center for Security on Campus — a nonprofit organization whose mission is to prevent violence, substance abuse and other crimes on college campuses and to assist the victims of these crimes — offers information through education and training and supports initiatives and legislation that support its mission.

“Often times, campus rape and sexual assault go unreported because the victim is dealing with a number of different concerns, such as fear of retaliation within the campus community, a lack of understanding of the criminal justice or judicial process, or because they don’t want to have to talk about their experiences,” said Abigail Boyer, director of communications and outreach for the Clery Center. “I believe it is the victim’s right to choose what decision is best for him/her; however, I also believe we can create a campus culture that is conducive to reporting. We can do this by providing information and education before a victimization even occurs.”

Boyer said that primary prevention is key.

“The goal of primary prevention is to prevent sexual violence from occurring. This may seem obvious; however, prevention education in the past has focused on raising awareness about sexual violence and creating a space for survivors to disclose,” she said. “There have also been a lot of risk reduction strategies that focus on the victim — cover your drink, don’t walk alone — even though the victim is not responsible for the victimization. Primary prevention recognizes the role of the community (the language used in the prevention of sexual violence is ‘bystanders’) in preventing sexual violence. It also addresses the attitudes and behaviors that could lead to sexual violence.”

Boyer also shared the importance of looking beyond statistics.

“What we’ve seen on several campuses is if a campus is complying with the reporting, and if they let students know what resources are available — doing prevention education on campus and educating about primary prevention — we might notice that these institutions may see an increase in the number of crimes reported,” she said. “This may reflect that the campus and community are creating a culture where victims feel more comfortable reporting these crimes and for that reason, the number will go up. But these schools also have the resources there to help these victims.”

The Clery Center is also a supporter of the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE) legislation, which seeks to address the violence women face on campus through transparency in reporting, accountability among campuses, education, and collaboration between federal agencies. Currently, Campus SaVE legislation has not passed.

Boyer said the Clery Center will be a part of other upcoming projects.

“We are extremely excited to be part of the Collaborative Documentary Project for which five universities are making student produced documentaries to address the problem of sexual assault on college campuses,” she said. “The Clery Center will be distributing these films so that other colleges and universities can use them for education. We are also a technical assistance provider under the OVW Campus Grant Program, which helps institutions establish a coordinated response to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.”