Reports of forcible sex offenses on college campuses nationwide grew from about 2,600 in 2009 to more than 3,900 in 2012, according to federal data, up 50 percent. That doesn’t mean campuses became that much more dangerous in those years; experts say students who in previous generations probably would have remained silent about what they experienced are now coming forward. Colleges, too, have become more thorough in documenting the problem and teaching students that incapacitation, through alcohol or drugs, prevents effective consent.
The trend is likely to accelerate. President Obama drew public attention to campus sex assaults this year through a White House task force. Lawmakers have invited survivors of sex assaults to Capitol Hill to advise them on legislation.
But there are at least two sides to every allegation. Brett A. Sokolow, president of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, said he worries that many students accused of sexual misconduct are “getting much less of a fair shake than they used to.” Accused students often say they are the victims.
Sokolow said some cases that in years past would have been considered “drunk sex” are now being examined for disciplinary violations. Colleges, he said, “have got to get this thing just right.”