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Sexual Assault at 'Epidemic Levels' Among College Women

Many raped when incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, researchers find

FRIDAY, May 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Almost one out of every five young women were raped or experienced attempted rape during their freshman year at a large private university in upstate New York, a new study reports. The findings were published in the June issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The new study is based on questionnaires from 483 incoming female freshmen. The young women answered questions upon arrival at campus, at the end of the fall and spring semesters, and at the end of the summer following their first year of college. The questionnaires were designed to assess whether these young women had experienced either incapacitated or forced rape, regardless of whether the act had been attempted or completed.

The investigators found that 18 percent of incoming freshmen women had experienced incapacitated rape prior to arriving at college, and 15 percent had experienced forcible rape. During their first year of college, 15 percent of freshmen women experienced incapacitated rape, and 9 percent were forcibly raped. Since some women reported more than one event, the numbers add up to more than the 18.6 percent prevalence of at least one such incident, the researchers noted. By the start of their sophomore year, 26 percent of college women had experienced incapacitated rape and 22 percent had been forcibly raped in their lifetimes.

More than one-third of the women -- 37 percent -- had experienced attempted rape or had been raped at least once between age 14 and the beginning of sophomore year, according to the data. "We find that the likelihood of incapacitated rape compared with forcible rape is higher in college than in the community," based on these results and previous studies of sexual assault, lead author Kate Carey, Ph.D., a professor of behavioral and social sciences at the Brown University School of Public Health in Providence, R.I., told HealthDay.

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