College football game days may have a sinister side: They’re associated with a higher incidence of sexual assault, according to a new study that explored links between campus party culture and rape.
Division One football games “significantly increase reports of rape involving college-aged victims” according to a December working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The study found that on the day of games, reports of rape by 17- to 24-year-old victims in colleges' local policing areas climbed 28 percent.
The increase was most significant for home games—which saw reports surge 41 percent on the day of the games, compared with 15 percent for away games—and was driven in large part by an increase in alleged attacks by strangers. For home games, reports of rape involving unknown offenders increased 61 percent, the research documents, while reports of attacks by known offenders climbed 28 percent.
Other activities could also drive up drinking and assault, but "Division I football games offer a clear instance [when] partying is intensified," said Montana State University’s Isaac Swensen, one of the report's authors, adding that the games permitted a large and nationwide sample of schools and generalizable results.
The study, which Swensen co-authored with Texas A&M University’s Jason Lindo and Peter Siminski of the University of Wollongong in Australia, used local-area crime data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and matched it to a sample of universities with Division 1 football programs. Focusing on assaults against student-age victims in those localities, back-of-the-envelope calculations suggested that football games cause between 253 and 770 additional rapes per year across the 128 schools participating in the Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision, previously called Division 1A.
Where the number falls within that range depends on how much other factors that accompany home games—such as the number of potential victims and perpetrators in town and heightened policing efforts—affect reports.
Upset wins increased reports of rape while upset losses did not, the researchers found. That supports the idea that the increase in reported rapes may be tied to intensified partying around football games. Upset wins also increased arrests for drunkenness, while upset losses had no such effect, according to the study.
“By providing convincing evidence that spikes in the degree of partying at a university escalate the incidence of rape, our results suggest that efforts to avoid such spikes could serve to reduce the incidence of rape,” the researchers wrote.