Safe at college


Parents who send a daughter off to college worry about a lot of things: How will she perform in challenging classes? How will she handle the freedom to eat, sleep, study, and play when she chooses? How will she — and they — pay for it?

Although parents typically have long lists of concerns, one of the most threatening possibilities on campus receives little attention: the possibility that their daughter will be raped. Today’s odds of young women becoming victims of sexual violence at college are far too high.

Last month, a White House report revealed that one in five female college students reported being the victim of a sexual assault. Worse, only one in eight student victims reports the crime.

Among all universities that report forcible sex offenses, the number grew from 2,986 in 2010 to 3,948 in 2012, according to data reported by the schools under a federal law that requires them to document campus crime. Experts believe these numbers vastly underestimate the prevalence of campus sexual assault.

At a recent White House meeting on the issue, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden made impassioned pleas for change. They called on young people to acknowledge that sexual assault is unacceptable, and urged them to “summon the bravery to stand up and say so.”

The President set up a task force to develop recommendations to prevent and respond to the crime, increase public awareness of schools’ track records, and make sure federal agencies are providing adequate oversight.

It is important to determine why sexual assaults occur and often go unreported, in order to reduce attacks that ruin the lives of women — and men — every year on campuses. As Education Secretary Arne Duncan said: “No parent should ever fear for a child’s safety when he or she departs for college.”