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December 2015

Campus Sexual Assault Perpetration: What Else We Need to Know

Author Affiliations
  • 1Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA Pediatr. 2015;169(12):1088-1089. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.1313

I commend Swartout and colleagues on their study1 in this issue of JAMA Pediatrics for their secondary data analysis of the 2 largest longitudinal data sets of men in college that operationalize sexual assault with a well-validated measure. The results shed additional needed light on the nature of campus sexual assault. By combining 2 data sets, albeit 15 years apart, they maximize our ability to detect the nature of sexual assault on campus. This information will inform better strategies for best identifying, adjudicating, and treating sexually assaultive men. As they point out, one of the major findings is that most men in college do not rape women. In the combined data set, 5.6% of 1645 men committed a sexual assault that met the FBI definition of rape during college. In current conversations about campus sexual assault, many college-aged men believe they are being demonized—if they are not rapists, then they are likely to rape as soon as exposed to a university atmosphere that condones rape. Clearly this is not true, and although all universities need to improve the response to those who are raped and improve accountability for those who do rape, we should avoid any rhetoric that suggests that men at universities are likely to rape and that young women in college should be frightened of the men on their campus in general.

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