Sexual Assault Information on University Websites

Publication Date


Document Type



Universities and colleges in the United States have never been under more scrutiny regarding their actions to prevent and respond to student reports of sexual assault. Increasingly, youth today turn to digital technology as their primary source of information. This study sought to evaluate institutions of higher education (IHEs) on the quality of their digital information for students and survivors of sexual assault. A randomly selected sample of IHE websites were examined from January 2015 to March 2015 for the presence or absence of information about sexual assault, and for the quality of the information that was present. Notably, 15% of the sample contained no information of any kind about sexual assault. The most common types of information offered were policies about sexual assault, phone numbers for campus police, and general directions on reporting any crime. Substantially fewer than half of the IHE websites offered any help with directions on how to report sexual assault to police, phone numbers for medical help, or a hotline number that victims could call. Also, infrequently, medical care was suggested for victims, but the importance of medical care after a sexual assault was only explained in some of those university websites. Colleges that had a subpage dedicated to information about sexual assault had higher rates of offering almost every type of pertinent information and guidance. However, despite the widely acknowledged fact that sexual assault is greatly underreported, only 15% of IHE websites offered bystanders or victims an anonymous way to report. These findings are discussed in the context of student needs for information about sexual assault, victim needs for support and guidance following such an assault, and overwhelming student preference for digital sources of information.

Original Citation

Englander, E., McCoy, M., & Sherman, S. (2016). Sexual Assault Information on University Websites. Violence and Gender, 3(1), 64-70. https://doi.org/10.1089/vio.2015.0025