College football may seem like innocent fun, but it turns out there's a dark side to game days.
A recently released study put out by Texas A&M economics professor Jason Lindo and a group of researchers from across the country has found an unsettling connection to college football game days and sexual assault: Game days come with a 28 percent increase of women between the ages of 17 and 24 reporting sexual assaults to local police, according to the report. And most of the women say that these rapes were carried out by men between 17 and 24 years old. (In other words, it's mostly students raping students.)
On game days, the college atmosphere of tailgating, boozing and partying can rapidly turn ugly, the study concluded. The numbers only get worse if it's a home game, with more women reporting that they'd been assaulted by men, also of college age, that they didn't know. As the atmosphere around campus becomes more competitive, the assault numbers increase. The number of rapes reported shoots through the roof to 82 percent if two rival teams are playing. If a game is a really big deal or features really large teams, again the stats get worse, according to data that researchers gathered and examined from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
So how did the researchers come to these conclusions? They pulled crime data collected by the FBI in specific areas and then matched it with a sampling of universities that had Division 1 college football programs. From there, they put the pieces together, according to the working paper published with National Bureau of Economic Research.
Of course, booze plays a big part in all of this. It's not an accident that an unexpected victory leads to more drunk people and more rape reports. In fact, the researchers tie the whole thing back to the alcohol-fueled, bacchanalian setup of game days on campuses where college football is an extremely big deal. While they acknowledged the sheer numbers of this grim reality — and keep in mind the researchers were tackling only a portion of Division 1 schools — they also said that they were hoping to change things with this report.
“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 write.
In other words, they're hoping that somebody will look at the connection between game day partying and rape and decide that there should be less partying. And who knows, maybe students will read about all this and decide to tone down the entire college football game day culture on their own. Or, more realistically, maybe some grownup types will figure out a way to do that.