A study published this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that football game days at Division 1 schools are associated with a spike in reported rapes by college-aged students in those areas.
The researchers analyzed data reported by campuses and local agencies. This allowed them to compare the data from football game days to the data from the same days of the week where there was no game. Final analysis found a 28% increase in rape reports by women between the ages of 17 and 24 on game days, which was higher (41%) when the game in question was a home game and lower (15%) when it was an away game. Reports also increased significantly after an upset win, but not after an upset loss.
These findings point to increased alcohol consumption as the likely primary contributing factor to these spikes in rape reports. Many fans celebrate their teams’ victories with heavy drinking, especially in the case of an exciting upset win. It is widely accepted that the consumption of alcohol greatly increases the incidence of sexual assault because it impairs judgment, lowers inhibitions, and potentially puts victims in a state where they are unable to consent
Another factor that could contribute to these statistics is the increased number of potential victims and perpetrators in town specifically for games. This is supported by the fact that the researchers found reports of attacks by unknown offenders increased significantly more than reports of attacks by known offenders (61% vs. 28%). This defies the usual statistic of campus rape, where the vast majority of victims claim to know their rapist. With a large number of people on campus who aren’t usually there, the likelihood of an unknown person committing such an assault is higher.
In order to fulfill their obligation to work to decrease sexual violence on their campuses, it is important for institutions to understand they must continue to get a handle on the various causes. Recognizing when violence may increase is an important step toward educating campus communities on ways to prevent future assaults from occurring. Hopefully this study can draw some much-needed attention to the negative effects of some of traditions involving fans of college sports.