Sexual assaults continue to go underreported on Arizona college campuses

Sexual Assault is still big problem on Arizona college campuses, especially when alcohol is...
Sexual Assault is still big problem on Arizona college campuses, especially when alcohol is involved.(Arizona's Family)
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 5:45 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 3, 2023 at 3:00 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Sexual assaults continue to be underreported on college campuses. The leaders of Arizona’s three public universities said they’re working to change that.

Studies show 26% of all female students experience rape or sexual assault while in college. But those studies reveal only 1 in 5 of those survivors come forward to report it. “We are structuring our services, our protocols for reporting and follow up and investigations in a way that is consistent with federal law,” Northern Arizona University President Jose Cruz Rivera said.

He’s referring to Title IX, which states colleges must ensure those experiencing sexual violence or sex-based discrimination are given access to support services. “Many universities get concerned when the number of reported incidents go up, my hope is that they will. Not because we’re not doing the work to prevent it, but to your earlier point, because we are creating the cultural and structural conditions for students to feel free to report it,” Cruz Rivera said.

NAU’s most recent data from 2019 show there were 14 rapes reported on campus. That’s down from 19 the year before. At the University of Arizona, there were 40 reported rapes on campus in 2019, 26 more than the previous year. At Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, reported rapes spiked from 10 in 2018 to 23 in 2019.

The most common thread in many of these assaults is alcohol, according to RAINN.

But even the students themselves admit not everyone is listening. “It is heavily advertised that alcohol is very discouraged but of course, that doesn’t stop everyone,” said Megan Hannelly, an ASU freshman.

“At the beginning of the year before we enrolled in classes we had to take online courses, about sexual assault awareness,” said Crawford McKinstry, an ASU freshman.

Students can choose to report sexual assaults to police or directly to their university. But reporting it to the university doesn’t automatically open a police investigation. According to RAINN, just 20% of all female victims come forward to law enforcement. “We know it’s underreported. So we need to figure out a way to ensure that people feel free and safe to report,”

Another challenge in all this is a delay in the university’s reporting of the overall data to the public.