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Study Uncovers Realities of Student-on-Student Sexual Assault at U.S. Schools

The rate of sexual violence by K-12 students peaks during middle school.

A report released this week by the Associated Press (AP) uncovered approximately 17,000 official reports of sexual assault committed by American K-12 students from the fall of 2011 to the spring of 2015. However, the study claims that the figure doesn’t represent all of the sexual violence incidents on K-12 campuses during that four-year period because sexual assaults are greatly under-reported. Some states don’t track these incidents, and the ones that do, catalog and classify sexual violence differently.

Private residences were the most common location for child-on-child sexual assault, but the second most common location for these attacks was schools. According to the study, unwanted fondling was the most common type of assault, while 20 percent of students who were sexually assaulted at school were raped, sodomized or penetrated with an object.

About 5 percent of the violence involved 5- and 6-year-olds. The rate of assault jumped dramatically at age 11 and peaked at age 14. The rate then dropped as students progressed through high school.

Gender was also a factor, with boys accounting for only 14 percent of all victims, although males accounted for 40 percent of the 5- and 6-year-old victims. Assaults on female victims increased significantly starting at age 11 and peaking at age 14. In nearly 95 percent of the cases involving female victims, males were the attackers. When the victims were male, 80 percent of the perpetrators were also male.

Additionally, student-on-student sexual assault was seven times more common than assaults on students by teachers. Despite this fact, assaults involving teachers get much greater exposure in the news.

AP also found that schools were unable or unwilling to address the problem despite being warned by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Obama Administration’s 2011 Dear Colleague letter.

View the report charts.

Photo: Thinkstock

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