Sex Ed

America’s College Rape Problem Is Real, But Not Everything You’ve Heard About It Is True

September 1, 2015 by Justin Lehmiller


We have a rape problem on college and university campuses throughout the United States–there is no denying or debating that. And correcting this problem should merit a lot of our time, attention, and resources. However, attempting to fix a problem like this is impossible if we don’t approach it with an accurate understanding of its scope or causes. Unfortunately, it turns out that much of what we think we know about America’s college rape problem is not an accurate reflection of the data.

In my latest article over at Playboy, I take a look at what the research actually says about three things you’ve probably heard about rape: (1) college is a particularly dangerous place for young women these days when it comes to sexual assault, (2) 1 in 5 college women will be raped, and (3) sexual assaults are always about power and control, not sex.

As you’ll see, the available research paints a somewhat different picture. For one thing, the motivations behind rape are a bit more complex than you might think and, for another, the prevalence of college rape is hard to pin down precisely and varies substantially across studies. Again, America does have a college rape problem–but if we want to fix it, we need to start by looking more closely at the data.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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