Stanford Rape Case Addresses Frat Party Culture, Tolerance of Violence

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Sexual Assault Rape

A rape at Stanford University has become the focal point for the national conversation on sexual assault, after former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner received a sentence of six months jail time for a unanimous guilty verdict on three felony counts related to his assault of an unconscious woman outside a frat party.

The incident is unusual for several reasons when compared to available data on sexual assaults, which is collected and structured by the Graphiq network.

Sexual assault on campus — and university responsibility for mediation and punishment — is usually discussed with the attendant assumption that both victim and perpetrator are students of the university. The victim in this case was not a Stanford student, and she and the perpetrator were complete strangers, an anomaly compared to the majority of rape cases.

As the below HealthGrove visualization shows, just 13 percent of rapes are committed by a stranger, compared to 45 percent committed by a current or former intimate partner. Data shows 47 percent of rapes are committed by an acquaintance of the victim.

The case has also become a symbol of unequal protection under the law for minorities convicted of similar crimes, drawing on a history of persistent racial disparities in sentencing. Judge Aaron Persky, himself a Stanford alumnus who presided over the case, faces a recall petition after his decision. A timeline of the events is available via Graphiq, using information reported by the Stanford Daily.

Compared to other colleges, Stanford has a high rate of reported sexual assaults, according to data collected by StartClass. There were 30 reported incidents of sexual assault at Stanford in 2014 — that's three times more than the median for all large colleges, and ten times higher than the median for all colleges.

Reports of sexual assault at American colleges have risen in recent years. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the number of instances has increased. It is unclear how much of the rise can be attributed to an increase in the rate of these incidents, or to more sympathetic attitudes that encourage a greater number of victims to come forward.

The number of total reported sex offences jumped notably between 2013 and 2014, according to data collected by HealthGrove.

Turner's case is the most recent reminder that sexual violence remains a serious public health threat for women (and men) on and off college campuses. Between 25 and 49 percent of women have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner over their lifetime.

Shedding light on incidents such as the assault at Stanford raises awareness about sexual violence, but curbing these disturbing numbers will require a widespread change in attitudes across the U.S.

Follow InsideGov on Twitter: @inside_gov

Emily von Hoffmann is a freelancer for Graphiq. Follow her on Twitter at @EmvonHoffmann.

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