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Jun 10, 2014 06:40 AM EDT

Education Department Survey Sees Surge in Sexual Assault Cases at American Colleges and Universities

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Sexual assault incidents at American colleges and universities peaked in 2011, according to a National Center for Education Statistics report. Researchers said that 3,330 forcible on-campus sex offenses were reported in 2011, a 51 percent increase from 2,200 recorded in 2001.

Despite the existence of a federal law - the Jeanne Clery Act - that mandates colleges to report all sexual assault cases to the U.S. Department of Education, there has been growing evidence of under-reporting of cases in recent years.

Failure to take action against the perpetrators has raised concerns about safety and protection among female population.

Daniella Brahms - who is majoring in graphic design from the California State University, Northridge - is urging women to be wary of their surroundings.

"It's hard to stop the men who will be doing these things so we need to tell the women to be aware and don't be on your earphones and pay attention to what's around you and be aware of your surroundings," Brahms said in a statement.

Despite growing incidence of sexual assaults, the number of other campus crimes like burglary and car theft decreased during the last decade. This might have lead to an overall reduction in campus atrocities from 41,596 in 2001 to 30,401 in 2010.

The annual survey mainly focuses on crime reports at elementary and secondary schools. The report found that there were fewer crimes recorded in the last decade when compared to 20 years ago.

Among students aged 12-18, 52 per 1,000 were victims of school crimes in 2012 as compared with 181 per 1,000 in 1992. At the same time, off-campus school crimes also declined from 173 per 1,000 to 38. Males were more likely to be victims than females. Plus, students in urban and suburban areas were more likely to have experienced more crime and greater than their rural counterparts.

The report is based on data from different sources including the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and campus surveys.

At elementary and high schools, the report identified 31 school-related deaths between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011. During the 2010-11 academic year, there were 11 homicides and three suicides of children aged between 5-18 years.

Tom Snyder of the National Center for Education Statistics said that although the 31 violent deaths depicts a sharp drop from the early 1990s, the data was collected before the December 2012 gunfire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where gunman killed 20 students and six professors, abc reports.

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