Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Understanding Your Local Problem

The information provided 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.

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 in the past two years, 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.

Campus and municipal police 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 sociology class or seminar project.

  • 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 w ho 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, 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 nonreturning students that include questions about, among other things, whether the students were raped?


  • 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, 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)?
  • At what times and on what days did most of the rapes occur?
  • Based on the victimization survey, when do the rapes cluster (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, nonstudents, fraternity members, athletes)?
  • Are rape prevention programs targeted, tailored and timely enough to address the offender group(s)?
  • Are certain campus fraternities or athletic teams thought to have parties that are high or low risk for rape? A survey of the college's women may help to identify high-risk groups.
  • Have the high-risk groups attended rape prevention programs?
  • Are the sanctions against potential offenders sufficiently publicized to reach the targeted group(s)?

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?
  • Are current investigative methods designed to counter the most predictable defense in acquaintance rape: consent?
  • 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? Is the curriculum designed to focus on behavioral change? Has the program reduced the number of reported and unreported acquaintance rapes? Has the program been evaluated?
  • Are the right people attending the program?
  • Is the program timely enough to prevent most acquaintance rapes? Is the information provided sufficient to stop the different types of acquaintance rape from occurring?
  • Does the curriculum provide potential victims with skills to deal with a variety of risky situations (e.g., at parties, in cars at the end of dates, in encounters in an apartment, when the man or woman is drinking heavily)?
  • Do the college's rules effectively address acquaintance rape? Does the college enforce the rules?
  • Are the people who make disciplinary decisions about acquaintance rape educated about the problem, including the temporal, geographic, victimization, and offending patterns for the college?
  • Are police and college public safety officers adequately educated about the exact nature of the problem at the college?
  • Are college officials and public safety officers trained concerning the UCR's "unfounded" category, and do they understand that certain conditions (e.g., the victim's intoxication or prior intimate relationship with the offender) do not allow for "unfounding" a case? Do campus judiciary decisions in acquaintance rape cases properly reflect this?
  • Are those arrested for acquaintance rape prosecuted? If not, why? If so, what is the typical sentence?

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. Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results. (For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the companion guide to this series, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.)

The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to acquaintance rape of college students.

Process Measures

The following process measures assess whether responses designed to reduce acquaintance rape were 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 freshman 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 willingness of college administrators to make training mandatory and ongoing
  • Increased percentage of female students who recognize that they are more at risk for acquaintance rape than stranger rape
  • Increased percentage of women who take preventive measures against acquaintance rape

Impact Measures

The following impact measures might indicate that acquaintance rape has decreased:

  • 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., freshmen orientation week, first semester)
  • Reduced number of repeat victims
  • Reduced number of repeat offenders