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America’s college campuses are not the war zones newspaper and magazine articles lead the public to believe but they are far from the safe places many people would like them to be. It is not just in large cities where this is an issue, all schools, large and small, rural and urban, are noting the existence of violent incidents on their campuses. What is perhaps most disturbing about violence on college campus is that the majority of incidents, including rape and other sexual assaults, are committed by the students themselves. In fact, students are responsible for about 80% of college crime, although rarely use weapons in these cases.

Over the last two decades, student violence has increased significantly, yet administrators are at a loss to understanding exactly why. Perhaps one major contributing factor is the increase of substance abuse on college campuses. The majority of perpetrators, as well as victims, are likely to have been high on alcohol and/or drugs when the crimes were committed. In a study by Towson State’s Campus Violence Prevention Center, it was found that the abuse of alcohol was heavier among victims and perpetrators of campus violence than the rest of the campus population. Obviously, the loss of control due to substance abuse, including alcohol, often results in violent outbursts. Many solutions offered by schools, such as mediation and conflict resolution are no match for the acts caused by the presence of alcohol. Although the legal drinking age in the majority of states is 21, the national community of college-age students simply does not accept this. In fact, it is estimated that about 80% of underage students carry fake proof of age identification. Drinking on college campuses has become a standard pastime and binge drinking, which is defined as consuming five or more drinks in one sitting, is widely accepted by 85% of all college freshmen. Every year, more alcohol related incidents are reported on college campuses nationwide. And as these numbers go up, so do the reported cases of campus violence. Small differences over trivial issues will escalate and often lead to violent situations when combined with drug and alcohol use. Student assistants in residence halls write up hundreds of classmates for the violation of the campus alcohol policy, however few, if any students will be arrested. Similar incidents with college students occur in town on a weekly basis, also with barely any police action.

Another leading cause of college violence is the amount of trust students, as well as faculty and administrators, put into their safety on campus. Literally thousands of people, not necessarily members of the school’s staff or population, will pass through the campus daily without incident. Despite frequent warnings and reports of incidents, most people act less suspicious on campuses than they do elsewhere. The general feeling is that the schools are safe so there is not much need for precaution. If a stranger is seen entering a building, it is highly unlikely that any observers will notify the police, even if that person is dressed strangely or is behaving oddly. If something does happen, the community will usually demand more protection and for about two weeks after the episode, security precautions will increase. After that though, the casual attitude towards safely usually reappears pretty quickly. Also, like noted before, the majority of stress is put on protecting the students from outside trespassers while really most violence is committed by the students themselves. Students are more likely to be a victim of crime perpetrated by a member of their own class or athletic team then they are by a perfect stranger. This is dangerous because most students trust each other simply because they are members of the same community. Yet 8% of students admit that they have been perpetrators and 12% say that they have been victims of assault.

Every year, more students on campuses around the country report being victims of assaults by fellow students. An increase has also been noted in campus vandalism, as well as in rape, and other types of sexual assault. Today, in an effort to protect students, schools provide watch groups, tamper-proof windows, and state-of-the-art exterior lighting and electronic alarm systems. Students are increasingly taking advantage of the escort services that for so long were available but were considered inconvenient. As part of the orientation programs at school’s across the nation, most administrators educate prospective students about the dangers of violence on college campuses and ways they can better ensure their own safety.

As you can see, the increase in college violence is not an issue that is going to be ignored. Parents, faculty, and the students themselves will continue working to come up with solutions to this problem. Whether it be more on-campus policemen, or better substance abuse prevention programs, school’s nationwide will fight to make sure students can feel safe on their campuses.

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