Washington: US universities tend to under-report cases of on-campus sexual assaults unless they are under federal scrutiny, a study has revealed.
"When it comes to sexual assault and rape, the norm for universities and colleges is to downplay the situation and the numbers," said researcher Corey Rayburn Yung of the University of Kansas.
"The result is students at many universities continue to be attacked and victimised, and punishment is not meted out to the rapists and sexual assaulters," Yung added.
Some of the colleges or universities have continued to under-report even after being fined for violations of federal law, the findings showed.
Yung analysed the numbers of on-campus sexual assaults reported by 31 large universities and colleges during audits from 2001 to 2012 by the US Department of Education for compliance with federal crime reporting requirements.
During the audits, the reported numbers of sexual assaults increased by approximately 44 percent on average from previously reported levels.
After the audits ended, the reported number of sexual assaults in following years dropped to pre-audit levels, evidence that some schools provided a more accurate picture of sexual assaults on campus only when they were under federal scrutiny, the study concluded.
"Colleges and universities still are not taking the safety of their students from sexual assault seriously," Yung noted.
"The study shows that many universities continue to view rape and sexual assault as a public relations issue rather than a safety issue," he added.
The research was published in the journal Psychology, Public Policy, and Law.