Twenty percent of young women who attended college during the past four years say they were sexually assaulted, says a new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll. The circle of victims on the nation's campuses is probably larger. Many others endured attempted attacks, the poll found, or suspect that someone violated them while they were unable to consent. Some say they were coerced into sex through verbal threats or promises. The Post and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation teamed up to poll more than 1,000 people nationwide who have attended college within the past four years about sexual assault and campus culture. Post reporters interviewed more than 50 women and men who responded that they had experienced unwanted sexual contact or attempted or suspected sexual contact while they were students.
In all, 25 percent of young women and 7 percent of young men say they suffered unwanted sexual incidents in college. The Post-Kaiser poll, one of the most comprehensive to date on an issue roiling the nation's colleges, provides evidence that sexual assault is often connected to factors woven deeply into campus culture. Most notably, two-thirds of victims say they had been drinking alcohol just before the incidents. Other potential risk factors, the poll found, are casual romantic encounters known as “hookups” and the presence on campus of fraternities and sororities.