College Consortium: The Impact of Campus Sporting Events on Sexual Assault

Apr 06th, 2023

By Hanah Ajamian, Program Intern 

Sexual violence is incredibly prevalent on college campuses in the United States as more than one in eight students are sexually assaulted during their time in college (Cantor et al, 2019). 1 in 5 college women, 1 in 16 college men, and about 1 in 4 transgender, genderqueer, or gender nonconforming college students experience sexual assault, at higher rates than the general public (Cantor et al, 2019). There are many factors that contribute to the prevalence of sexual violence in college environments, including the traditions around sporting events. One study finds that college football game days increase reports of rape victimization among 17–24-year-old women by an astounding 28 percent at Division 1 schools (Lindo, et al, 2018). 

There are some risk factors connected to sporting events on college campuses that help us with understanding these statistics. Many of these factors are linked with the increased use of alcohol and drugs before, during, and after popular sporting events. Assaults are particularly high when we look at schools with Division 1 teams (Lindo, 2018). Sporting events can cause a lot of excitement both from the campus and the surrounding communities. This excitement results in tailgating, parties, and other forms of gatherings that can involve excessive drinking. During this time students from various organizations and groups throw parties where alcohol is easily accessible to all, including those who are underage. Studies have found that excessive drinking is a leading factor of sexual assault during a students time on campus (Lindo et al, 2018).

As we explore the culture of drinking that surrounds popular sporting events on college campuses, it is fair to ask: Do these games put too much pressure on young students to participate in excessive drinking that can push many past their limits? The same study referenced in the first paragraph, found that it wasn’t just sexual violence that increased on game days, but home games also increase arrests for disorderly conduct by 54 percent, drunk driving by 20 percent, drunkenness by 87 percent, and liquor law violations by 102 percent over two days (Lindo et al, 2018). 

However, there are ways that colleges and universities can combat these issues on their campuses and work to create safe environments for students on game days. First, schools can include prevention education into various programs, activities and even curriculum, which would entail talking about consent and bystander intervention to students. It is also important to address alcohol misuse reduction as a related topic and working with students on responsible drinking. This could look like universities hosting tailgates where free food is available and alcohol is not permitted on the grounds. This would ensure a safer option for students who want to participate in game day activities. Hosting a tailgate would also provide a way for students to "sober up" before that game if they have chosen to drink prior to attending. These are all great places to start, but there must be a collective and combined effort in order to reduce risk during sporting events and on campus overall. If these types of programs are implemented, then we can start the work to reduce the number of sexual assaults that occur before, during, and after game day.


“Alcohol and the Adolescent Brain.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from:

Cantor et. al. Association of American Universities (AAU). (January 17, 2020). Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. Retrieved from:

Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2014). Rape and Sexual Victimization Among College-Aged Females, 1995-2013. Retrieved from: 

Lindo, J, Siminski, P, and Swensen I. (September 20, 2018) “Big Game Days in College Football Linked with Sexual Assault.” The Conversation. Retrieved from: 

Lindo, J, Siminski, P, and Swensen I.  2018. "College Party Culture and Sexual Assault." American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 10 (1): 236-65. Retrieved from: 

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