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Study: College football games increase risk of rape, sexual assault on campus

Eric Gay/Associated Press

Eric Gay/Associated Press

College football game days increase rates of sexual assault and rape, according to a recent study on the correlation of sexual assault and major sporting events on college campuses.

The study, entitled, “College Party Culture and Sexual Assault,” published in December by the National Bureau for Economic Research, argued that intensified party climates surrounding sporting events significantly increase the odds for sexual assault.

According to the study’s abstract, “Estimates are based on panel data from campus and local law-enforcement agencies and an identification strategy that exploits plausibly random variation in the timing of [NCAA] Division 1 football games.”

The data was collected from the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS), a crime statistics database maintained by the U.S. Justice Department, and focused on number of rapes and sexual assault cases that occurred on the day of a major college sports event, compared to a day without a major sports event.

There was a 28 percent increase in reported cases of rape and sexual assault by college women, aged 18 to 24 years old, on the days that NCAA Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams played. In addition, there was a 41 percent increase of reported rape cases on days of home games, versus a 15 percent increase of reported cases on days the teams were away. Based on the study’s findings, there are an additional 258 to 770 rapes each year at the universities in the top division of college football (128 schools).

“We chose to investigate the effects of Division 1 football games,” said Jason Lindo, one of the authors of the study and an economics professor at Texas A&M University. “These events very clearly intensify partying and drinking on and around college campuses. So they provide an opportunity to learn about the causal effects of such activities.”

Lindo and his colleagues, Peter Siminski of Montana State University and Isaac Swensen of University of Wollongon (Australia), also measured lower divisions in the NCAA and found noticeable, but lesser trends of rape on days of sporting events.

The study also found that there were spikes in rape reports on the days that particularly prominent games took place — such as a championship, upset in national standings, or a rivalry.

Lindo urged college administrators, policymakers, and students to think, “about how to avoid spikes in partying, or to reduce the intensity of such spikes.” He also recommended to think “about how to make the partying that does occur safer, which is where something like bystander intervention or affirmative consent could fit,” into a specific prevention framework.


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