With College Sex Crimes Up, What Do Colorado Universities Watch For?

Generally speaking, the overall crime rate on college campus has dropped substantially — except for one important area. Reports of sex crimes increased by an astounding 205% between 2001 and 2015.

This probably sounds terrifying – and it should. However, it is likely that the commission of sex crimes has not increased. Rather, what is probably happening is that more sex crimes are being reported as the stigma felt by victims has been lessened. Further, universities are under increased pressure to prevent sex crimes, so have increased efforts to prevent sex crimes and to investigate reports of sex crimes.

This is largely a positive thing, as sex crimes should never be tolerated. However, as is frequently discussed in the media, consent is often not as simple as it seems. In many instances, the alleged perpetrator may have honestly believed that what took place was a consensual act, while the alleged victim contends that he or she was coerced into engaging in a non-consensual act.

Regardless, Colorado universities are on the lookout for potential sex crimes, and all college students should be aware of what law enforcement officials and universities watch for. Below, we’re going to cover common sex crimes on college campuses, and the potential consequences for these crimes.


Sexual harassment is common on US college campuses. It is estimated that three in five undergraduates (including both women and men) will experience sexual harassment during their time in school.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is broadly defined as any kind of unwanted verbal, nonverbal, or physical attention of a sexual nature that is not wanted.

This can consist of

  • Comments about the victim’s physical appearance
  • Sexual jokes
  • Gender-based put-downs or other demeaning or threatening language
  • Spreading rumors about the victim’s sexual activity or appearance
  • Texting or emailing pictures of the victim to others
  • Staring at the victim suggestively
  • Showing the victim sexual images
  • Engaging in behaviors of a sexual nature to make the victim feel uncomfortable.
  • Physical manifestations such as unwanted hugging, patting, or other touching
  • Following the victim or not respecting his/her personal space

Sexual harassment can occur between strangers, in a professional setting, or between people who know one another very well, including romantic partners.

Sexual Harassment on College Campuses

Sexual Harassment on College Campuses

Sexual harassment is prohibited on college campuses under Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Acts. All schools that receive federal funding are required to protect students and faculty from sexual harassment.

This means that while typically not a crime in and of themselves, if claims of sexual harassment are reported to the university, the alleged harasser could face administrative penalties, up to and including expulsion. The harasser could also face a civil suit from the victim.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault refers to sexual behavior or contact that takes place without the victim’s explicit consent, and it can take many forms. Sexual assault can include:

  • Attempted rape
  • Unwanted sexual touching or fondling
  • Forcing the victim to perform sex acts such as penetrating the perpetrator’s body, or performing oral sex
  • Penetration of the victim’s body, commonly referred to as rape

Use of Force or Coercion

In most cases, sexual assault involves the use of force or coercion on the part of the perpetrator. However, this does not always refer to physical force, or even the threat of physical force.

In many cases, the perpetrator may use emotional coercion, psychological force, or manipulation to coerce the victim into non-consensual sex or sex acts. In instances such as this, consent can become a gray area. The perpetrator could believe that the victim was consenting, while the victim could feel that he or she was coerced by the perpetrator’s behavior.

Inability of the Victim to Give Consent

In some cases, the victim may be unable to give consent. This includes victims who are heavily intoxicated at the time of the assault to the point that they are either unconscious or impaired to the extent that they are incapable of forming the judgement to consent.

If the victim is considered unable to give consent when a sex act takes place, this is considered to be sexual assault.

Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Sexual assault is very common on college campuses. It is estimated that one in five female college students are victims of sexual assault while in college.

A variety of factors make sexual assault common on college campuses. This can include heavy alcohol and drug use, in which the victim is incapacitated and unable to consent to sexual activity. Peer pressure on the part of the victim or the perpetrator also leads to increased risk of sexual assault.

Colleges receiving federal funding are required to publicly report sexual assault. This puts increased pressure on universities to crack down on instances of sexual assault, and to put efforts in place to prevent sexual assault from occurring.

Denver Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer

If accused of sexual assault, the alleged perpetrator faces criminal charges and potential expulsion. If convicted, the perpetrator faces a lengthy prison sentence and mandatory sex offender registration.


About the Author:

Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.