Domestic Violence at Colleges and Universities

domestic violence colleges universities

Domestic violence such as rape, date rape, acquaintance rape, sexual assault, stalking and more occur everywhere – and colleges and universities are no exception. It is thought that nearly one in four college women have either been raped or suffered an attempted rape – and most knew their abusers beforehand.

Sadly, college campuses are not always the safe havens they should be. Domestic violence is a serious and widespread issue for college students across North Carolina and throughout the nation. The Raleigh area is home to several large universities, and our domestic violence lawyers in Raleigh urge students to raise awareness of the problem and take steps to protect themselves.

How Domestic Violence at the University Level Is Different

Domestic violence – that is, violence between intimate partners – is a horrifying form of aggression. The abuser terrorizes his or her victim using physical force, coercion or threats, and takes advantage of a person he or she claims to care for. Domestic violence can, but doesn’t always, occur in acts of sexual abuse. Unfortunately, young victims of dating violence are often hesitant to come forward because of societal stigma and fear of retribution.

The university environment can further exacerbate the fear associated with domestic violence. A victim of domestic violence may feel that coming forward would threaten her or his social reputation, or would “ruin the life” of a prominent campus figure (though, of course, it was that prominent figure who broke the law).

Social media now plays an increased role, as teenagers and college students have the opportunity to covertly bully and threaten victims online.

Many students are also away from home for the first time and may feel isolated from their trusted support networks, especially family.

Beyond the social pressures, there are administrative challenges to face. Some colleges conduct their own hearings in response to student reports of domestic violence, but they may drag their feet. Many students have reported not being taken seriously or being put through arduous and disorganized hearings.

Victims are sometimes forced to continue attending class alongside their abusers or even live in the same residence hall. These missteps may stem in part from the mistaken perception that most college students prefer to “hook up” rather than engage in committed relationships, and that instances of dating violence are nothing more than isolated disputes between students. This is as offensive as it is incorrect. Most students do not frequently “hook up,” and instances of violence between intimate partners in college are a form of domestic violence.

Domestic Violence on College Campuses Is All Too Common

Domestic violence is sadly all too common on college campuses, and not enough is being done to address this issue. About 1 in 5 college students say they have been abused by an intimate partner, and nearly a third admit to having committed assault against their partner at some time in the previous year, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Women are at a higher risk. In fact, women ages 16 to 24 suffer from domestic violence at the highest rate of any surveyed group, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report. Among victims ages 18 to 24, nearly 30 percent of female murder victims were killed by intimate partners.

In more than two-thirds of cases of domestic violence against women, the women reported that the assault included physical violence (being hit, pushed down, or otherwise physically attacked). The rest involved the threat of physical violence or attempted physical violence. Threats are considered to be domestic violence, as the goal is to physically terrorize the victim.

Instances of domestic violence tend to occur at home (or perhaps in a residence hall) at night, when there are less likely to be witnesses. Moreover, on campus, stalkers and abusers are even likely to have keycard access to the victim’s residence. Victims of domestic violence may feel they have nowhere to turn.

Statistics on Domestic Violence at Colleges and Universities

In fact, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), approximately 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses knew their attacker. An astonishing 35% of those victims reported that the rape occurred while on a date.

Here are other NCADV Domestic Violence on College Campuses Statistics:

  • 25% of female students experience sexual assault over the course of their college career.
  • 53% of victims of domestic violence were abused by a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • 21% of college students report having experienced dating violence by a current partner.
  • 32% of college students experienced dating violence by a previous partner.
  • 13% of college women report they were forced to have sex by a dating partner.
  • 60% of acquaintance rapes on college campuses occur in casual or steady dating relationships.
  • 13% of college women report they have been stalked – nearly half of those were by a current or ex-boyfriend.

As you can see, statistics on domestic violence and rape at colleges and universities are staggering. Unfortunately, these statistics are likely much higher as many survivors do not report crimes to authorities out of fear of reprisal, fear of future acts of violence, anxiety, low self esteem and more.

Legal Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence at College

Though many families and students may be unaware, victims of domestic violence on campus are protected by Title IX. This same law has received plenty of publicity as it concerns equal athletics funding, but its purview over dating violence has perhaps been underplayed. Colleges and universities have the duty to investigate instances of domestic violence among their students and to take measures to protect victims from their abusers.

However, those campus hearings are not legal trials, and administrators cannot put an abuser in jail or issue legal protective orders. It’s important to keep in mind that victims of college dating violence have options outside of campus resources, too. In some cases, they may find that law enforcement provides a more thorough response than college administrators.

If you have been a victim of domestic violence in Raleigh or elsewhere in Wake County or North Carolina, you should contact an experienced domestic violence lawyer immediately.



Charles Ullman & Associates provides you respected, experienced and knowledgeable divorce and family law attorneys. You can trust us to help you through the legal process efficiently and effectively so you can transition to the next phase of your life. Our community involvement reaches beyond charitable support of important causes. We launched our own movement in Fraternities4Family and provide scholarships to able students in need.