Twenty percent of young women who attended college in the United States during the past four years say they were sexually assaulted, according to a new poll.
Many others endured attempted attacks, or suspect that someone violated them while they were unable to consent, according to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
The survey found 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 regarding the rape epidemic at American colleges, provides evidence that sexual assault is often connected to factors deeply rooted into campus culture.
The findings illustrate the difficulty universities face in preventing assaults which are widespread but rarely reported to authorities.
College sexual assault, a long-hidden problem in the US, has gained new urgency in recent years as the number of reports of forcible sex offenses on campus has surged.
The latest findings show that sexual assault is a vastly underreported crime as many victims are reluctant to step forward because they fear repercussions.
Sexual violence against female students on university campuses in the United States has reached “epidemic levels,” and interventions to reduce it are urgently needed, according to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in May.
The survey, conducted at a large unnamed private university in the state of New York, found that nearly one in five college women at one US university reported incidents of rape or attempted rape during their first year at the institution.
The results from a 2011 survey by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which were released last year, indicate that an estimated 19.3 percent of women have been raped and 43.9 percent have suffered sexual violence at one point in their lives.