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How Sexual Assault Affects College Students

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

College students make up a large number of sexual assault cases every year. RAINN reports, that college students are more likely to experience sexual violence than non-college students of the same age. Experiencing any form of sexual violence can affect college students' health, finances, and even their school work.

Physical and Mental Health

Sexual assault can have a large number of adverse physical effects. These could include STDs, pregnancy, or even substance abuse. All of these physical effects can make it harder for college students to attend classes, and return to their routine before the assault.

In addition to these physical health effects, students may experience severe mental health problems as a result of the sexual assault. These include anxiety, PTSD, depression, suicidal ideation, and immense fear. According to Know Your IX, 34% of college student survivors have experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as opposed to 9% of non-survivors. (Know Your Title IX).

All of these feelings, while being in college can be a lot for survivors to handle. This does not include the struggle that college students may have because of their peers' responses to the assault. The majority of sexual assaults are completed by acquaintances. This leaves a lot of survivors with peer groups that are close to the assailant as well as themselves. Tiara, a survivor of sexual assault, explained that after the assault she "...had trouble focusing at school, developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and faced harassment from friends of her assailant"(RAINN).

With all of this going on, it is no wonder that college students may have emotional and physical health difficulties following an assault. If you, or someone you know, is a survivor of sexual assault feel free to call our hotline: 757-260-5260 for support.


In addition to physical and mental health struggles, sexual assault can cost survivors a lot. According to a 2014 White House Study, rape can cost anywhere from $87,000 to $240,776 per incident. While this is not a college-specific number, it does include a lot of the physical and emotional health costs that can come with healing from a sexual assault. Many college students are not in a financial place to heal after the assault. This can include receiving counseling, or physical health support.

There are numerous programs on and off college campuses to provide students with free support, but often there are long waits. Vice completed a student to understand the scope of the problem with wait times for college counseling. They found, "Many waited far longer; a VICE survey of students at 77 colleges and universities across the country found that they often waited five, six, or even ten weeks just for initial appointments."(VICE) The situation may seem dire for college survivors, but there are still ways for them to receive support.


How to Support College Survivors

Be There & Be Informed

While supporting survivors of sexual assault, one of the most important things to do is to listen and reassure. Reminding a survivor that they are not alone, and listening to them can be a great asset to their healing. It is important to give the survivor control over their healing process. Instead of telling a survivor what to do, it is important to provide them with information and let them decide when they are ready.

For example, the Center offers free counseling services to survivors of sexual assault. To support a college student in our service area, someone could provide the survivor with our hotline number and explain our services.

Know When to Ask for Help

Oftentimes, we may not know how to support survivors of sexual assault. It is okay not to know the best things to say, or the best way to help each specific survivor. During this time it is important to remember that you can ask for support. Hotlines, such as ours, are there to support survivors and those who care for them. In addition, sometimes it is helpful to reach out to the Title IX office at the student's school or reach out to their counseling center to know the best way to support them.

If you don't know how to support survivors, reach out for support and keep reaching out. We are here to help.

The Center for Sexual Assault Survivors provides free counseling, support groups, and legal advocacy for survivors of sexual assault and those who care for them. Reach out for support here, 24/7 Hotline: 757-236-5260.

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Because Sexual Assault Affects us All

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