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A new study published this week by the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that 18% of women reported being a victim of incapacitated rape (IR) before entering college. Another 15% reported being a victim of IR during their first year of college. The study provides at least two important lessons for institutions as they strive to decrease the incidence of sexual violence on campus.

First, the study confirms that the risk of sexual violence is highest among institutions’ youngest and newest students. Even more alarming is the fact that the greatest risk of sexual assaults is during the so-called Red Zone, the period of time between when freshman first come to campus and Thanksgiving break. These statistics underscore the importance of education and training of students immediately upon the start of their college years. Given the greater prevalence of IR prior to college years, the JSAD study provides justification for implementation of education and other prevention measures during high school (and even middle school) years.

Another important lesson from the JSAD study relates to the type of educational programming institutions should focus upon to decrease sexual violence. The study is careful to note that victims are not responsible for being raped; however, “until perpetration of sexual assault becomes universally unacceptable and rare, development and implementation of strategies under the direct control of potential victims will be needed to reduce women’s risk.” The study suggests that education surrounding heavy drinking and sex and other programming such as bystander intervention training could be an effective approach for addressing the unacceptable incidence of sexual assault.

Obviously, there are other issues surrounding sexual assault prevention beyond IR that institutions should focus upon in their ongoing awareness campaigns. Since alcohol and drugs are a common element in most sexual assaults that occur on college and university campuses, providing education on this front is critical.  Based upon the JSAD study, discussions with new students about these risks can’t happen soon enough.