• Center for Problem oriented policing

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Understanding Your Local Problem

The information provided above is only a generalized description of acquaintance rape of college students. You must combine the basic facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response strategy.


In addition to criminal justice agencies, the following groups have an interest in the acquaintance rape of college students’ problem and ought to be considered for the contribution they might make to gathering information about the problem and responding to it:

  • Fellow students have one of the biggest roles in preventing and stopping acquaintance rape. Currently, bystander training in colleges has proven to be the most effective way to prevent acquaintance rape.[87] Furthermore, many victims only tell close friends and peers, thereby making the collective student body the most knowledgeable about the instances of acquaintance rape of college students.
  • University and college administrators such as presidents, deans of students, and college deans bear primary responsibility for their students’ welfare on campus and control school resources that might be employed in responding to the problem.
  • Athletic directors and coaches (particularly of the men’s teams) have substantial influence over their players’ attitudes and behavior.
  • Student health and psychological and academic counseling staff have considerable insights about the extent to which students are suffering from the physical and psychological consequences of acquaintance rape.
  • Fraternity and sorority chapter leaders (at the campus and national levels) have substantial influence over the policies and practices of their chapters’ members.
  • Student housing officials (especially residence administrators and resident assistants) have substantial influence over the policies and behavioral rules in student residential housing, and of the resident students’ conduct in them.
  • Rape crisis counselors have considerable insights about the extent to which college students are victimized by acquaintance rape and how criminal-justice and campus officials can best meet their psychological needs.

Asking the Right Questions

The following are some critical questions you should ask in analyzing your particular acquaintance-rape problem, even if the answers are not always readily available. Your answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on.


  • How many reported rape victims does the college have?
  • What percentage are women? What percentage are men?
  • What percentage of the reported incidents are acquaintance rapes?
  • What percentage of female victims are raped by college students?
  • What percentage of male victims are raped by college students?
  • How many of the college’s students have been acquaintance-rape victims, but did not report? A two-year period can provide useful trend data. A victimization survey may be the best means to capture this information. It may also be valuable in revealing reasons for not reporting.†
  • Were the victims previously raped during college? If so, where and when? Were the victims previously raped before attending college? Police should also ask college counselors to pose these questions to all rape victims who come to their attention, and to track this information each year in order to tailor rape-prevention programs.
  • What is the offenders’ relationship to the victims (e.g., boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, dorm mate, classmate, non-student acquaintance, stranger)?
  • Did the acquaintance-rape victims drink alcohol or use drugs before the assaults? If so, what kind and how much? Did they do so at the offenders’ insistence or encouragement?
  • What reasons do the victims give for the rapes? A survey may include optional answers such as those listed below, allowing the victim to check all that apply: 
    • “He did not listen to me.”
    • “He did not respect my wishes.”
    • “We were both drunk.”
    • “He kept giving me drinks.”
    • “He drugged me.” 
  • Did the victims attend any rape-prevention programs before the assaults?
  • Does the college conduct exit interviews of non-returning students that include questions about, among other things, whether the students were raped?

† Campus and municipal police or campus security may find that certain faculty members (trained in research methods) and their students would be willing to conduct such surveys, perhaps as part of a class or seminar project. 


  • Where did the acquaintance rapes occur? The victimization survey may be the best way to get this information. Possible answers should be listed and might include the offender’s residence hall room, the victim’s residence hall room, a fraternity-house bedroom or bathroom, a sorority house, a car, a college-sponsored party, a nonstudent party, etc.
  • Who owns the premises or locations where the rapes occurred?
  • Do certain campus fraternities have reputations as places where rapes occur? If so, why?
  • What specific event preceded the rapes (e.g., fraternity party, intercollegiate athletic party or game, college-sponsored party, residence hall party, date, drinking at a bar, study session)?
  • At what times and on what days did most of the rapes occur?
  • Determine from the victimization surveys when the rapes most commonly occur (e.g., the first week of school; the first month of school, but not the first week; the first semester of school, but not the first month; spring break; the beginning of the sophomore year)?


  • Who are the offenders (e.g., freshmen, sophomores, etc.; fraternity members; athletes; other university staff; nonstudents)?
  • Are certain campus fraternities or athletic teams thought to have parties that are high or low risk for rape? If so, what seems to account for the high or low risk? A survey of the college’s women may help to identify high-risk groups.
  • What reasons do offenders provide for their illegal actions?
  • What proportion of known offenders are repeat offenders? In what ways are known repeat offenders different from non-repeat offenders? 

Current Responses

  • How much money has the college invested in preventing stranger rape compared with preventing acquaintance rape?
  • Does the college or do campus police have a security role at any of the places or functions (on or off campus) where acquaintance rapes have occurred?
  • Do police investigators and prosecutors know how to effectively investigate suspects’ and defendants’ claims that the sex was consensual?
  • Does the rape-prevention program provided by the college or by campus or municipal police specifically address that college’s problem? Does the curriculum contain valid information? Has the program been evaluated and deemed effective? Is the program required for all students, or at least students in known high-risk groups?
  • Is prevention programming timed to prevent acquaintance rapes (i.e., very early in the year, such as during orientation)?
  • Do the college’s rules address acquaintance rape, including explicit prohibitions against such conduct; reporting, investigative, and appeal procedures; and consequences? Does the college enforce the rules?
  • Are campus police and those who make disciplinary decisions about acquaintance rape appropriately educated about the problem?
  • Are college officials and campus police properly trained to report acquaintance rape accurately under federal guidelines?
  • Are those arrested for acquaintance rape prosecuted? If not, why? If so, what is the typical outcome?
  • Are university sanctions against offenders adequately publicized?

Measuring Your Effectiveness

You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses, to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them, to determine whether they have been effective. You should take all measures in both the target area and the surrounding area. For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see Problem-Solving Tools Guide No. 1, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers and Problem-Solving Tools Guide No. 10, Analyzing Crime Displacement and Diffusion.

The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to acquaintance rape of college students. Process measures show the extent to which responses were properly implemented. Outcome measures show the extent to which the responses reduced the level or severity of the problem.

Process Measures

The following process measures assess whether responses designed to reduce acquaintance rape were properly implemented:

  • Increased percentage of victims reporting acquaintance rape
  • Increased percentage of victims reporting attempted acquaintance rape
  • Increased percentage of men who are knowledgeable about the issue of consent
  • Increased percentage of women who are knowledgeable about risk factors associated with acquaintance rape
  • Increased percentage of rape cases investigated by the police that result in prosecutions and convictions and/or appropriate campus judicial sanctions
  • Increased number of students attending acquaintance-rape awareness and prevention programs
  • Increased percentage of women who take preventive measures against acquaintance rape

Outcome Measures

The following are potentially useful outcome measures relating to acquaintance rape of college students:

  • Reduced number of acquaintance rapes, tracked by type (e.g., party rape, date rape, non-party rape, rape by a former intimate) and time of year (e.g., freshman orientation week, first semester)
  • Reduced number of repeat victims
  • Reduced number of repeat offenders

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