Through the Eyes of a Survivor

Understanding the epidemic of sexual assault on American college campuses

Meet Alexandra Le Blanc.

She's a student at American University in Washington, D.C. She's a real person. She's just like any of us.

Alexandra might be your friend who lives in your dorm, your study group partner, someone you sit with in the dining hall.

And she was sexually assaulted.1

Alexandra was sexually assaulted. Here's her story.

Sexual assaults aren't just isolated events at parties, though.

Here are some situations that Alexandra and women like her have been in. Are these examples of sexual assault?4

"I didn't want to have sex, but I did anyway because...

Correct. This is sexual assault. One survivor's story:

Incorrect. This is sexual assault. One survivor's story:


So Alexandra's story is far from unique.

Here are Alexandra and 99 women just like her. They're students, athletes, campus leaders, friends, roommates.

But 1 in 5 of them will be sexually assaulted in college.2

Sexual assault is a huge problem on your campus, too.

This isn't just at Alexandra's school. Women at top colleges across the country face alarmingly high rates of sexual assault.3

Percent of women at this school who were sexually assaulted:

Average sexual assault rate across schools:


Alexandra was one of the few who decided to report her sexual assault.

She was one of the just 5% of college survivors who reported7. But now there's just a 1-in-16 chance that her assailant will get arrested8. It's like playing roulette...

Click the wheel to see what happens to Alexandra's assailant. Alexandra was one of the lucky 6%: her assailant was arrested. But even now, there's just a 1-in-10 chance that they'll spend any time in jail8... As happens 94% of the time, Alexandra's assailant wasn't arrested. Far too often, assailants don't face arrest because schools downplay the accusations or drop charges entirely.

It's no wonder that sexual assault is one of the least-reported violent crimes.

Less than 40% of survivors nationwide report to police5, less than nearly every other violent crime in the country.

Many survivors are afraid to report because they fear retaliation, believe the police won't do anything to help, or think it isn't important enough to report.6

Sexual assault is one of the least
reported violent crimes in America

Type of Crime

This trend hasn't improved over time


But there is hope for women like Alexandra.

Like other serious violent crimes, the rate of sexual assault has dropped significantly in recent years, although it still happens frighteningly often.9

There are plenty of resources to help Alexandra and women like her.10

If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

If you have been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE.

If you are seriously injured or still in immediate danger, call 911.

If you have been sexually assaulted, do the following immediately:

  1. Call the free, anonymous, and confidential National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE. A trained staffer will talk through what happened with you, find you medical help, connect you with forensic exams, and tell you about long-term support resources. For 24/7 help, you can use the online hotline.
  2. If you're on a college campus, visit your sexual assault response office (e.g. Harvard's).
  3. Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Medical care is important to care for your injuries and to protect against sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
  4. Contact your local or campus police department in person or over the phone.

If you want to file a police report:

  • Seek medical attention for a forensic exam and evidence collection immediately after the assault.
  • Try not to bathe, shower, change your clothes, eat, drink, smoke, gargle, or urinate prior to the exam.
  • Bring a change of clothes with you.
  • You have the right to have a sexual assault counselor/advocate with you during your medical exam.

You want to report, but what if...

The perpetrator got scared away before finishing the assault?
You should still file because attempted rape is a serious crime and can be reported.

You have no physical injuries and you're worried there's not enough proof?
You should still file because most sexual assaults don't result in external physical injuries. You can choose to have a sexual assault forensic to check for DNA evidence that may not be visible on the surface.

You are worried that law enforcement won't believe you?
This has been a great investment in police training on this topic. While there are occasional exceptions, most law enforcement officers are understanding and on your side. If you do encounter someone who isn't taking you seriously, ask for their supervisor and let them know.

Reach out for help if you feel your mental health is at risk:

And there's plenty we can do to help.

RAINN is the country's largest anti-sexual violence organization. They run a hotline for victims, push public policy, and educate the public. For less than a dollar a day, you can help educate 15,000 people about preventing sexual violence.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center develops sexual assault prevention resources and works to implement them with governments and community organizations.
PACT5 is a national movement to prevent sexual assaults in college. They support student advocates who make documentaries that can change dangerous behavior patterns.
It's On Us is President Obama's initiative to raise awareness and fight against sexual assault in college. Take the pledge to not be a bystander but rather to be part of the solution.

About this project

This was a final project for Harvard's Data Visualization course, CS 171. By Neel Mehta, Javier Cuan-Martinez, Peter Youn, and Enrique Casas. The instructors awarded this project 1st place out of over 20 projects.

With special thanks to our advisor, Hendrik Strobelt; our professor, Dr. Hanspeter Pfister; and the rest of the CS 171 staff.


  1. Alexandra's story comes from the Washington Post.
  2. The facts in this visualization come from PACT5.
  3. College sexual assault rates come from the AAU's survey of 27 American universities.
  4. Quiz questions from Confi.
  5. Report rate data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics' National Criminal Victimization Survey, 20042013. Note the relatively high variance in the reporting rate of sexual assaults, which indicates that our very methods for investigating sexual assault need to be improved (thanks to Hendrik for this observation.)
  6. Reasons for not reporting from RAINN.
  7. PACT5.
  8. Perpetrator arrest and conviction data from RAINN.
  9. Rates of violent crimes from the 2012 National Criminal Victimization Survey. Note that the 2006 survey uses nonstandard methodology, so (as is common practice with NCVS data) it is omitted.
  10. Resources from RAINN.