FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A new CDC survey says 18% of high school girls experienced sexual violence in 2021.

That number is up 3% in a four-year timespan. 8% of students surveyed, male or female, say they have been forced to have sex.

KNWA interviewed Joel Levin, co-founder of the group Stop Sexual Assault in Schools.

“When we founded our organization in 2014 — very few people. It wasn’t an issue among very many people. But, you know, since that time, it’s gotten more and more coverage,” he said.

According to the latest federal data from the Department of Education, 14,938 incidents of sexual violence were reported in the 2017-18 school year. That is up from 9,649 incidents of sexual violence reported in the 2015-2016 school year.

Reports of rape have nearly doubled in that same time frame. 786 rapes were reported in the 2017-18 school year, up from 394 in 2015-16. Levin says the real numbers are likely higher.

“We have to recognize that a lot of K-12 sexual harassment, sexual violence, is underreported because and the reasons are several. Students feel like if they do report, they’re risking retaliation, you know, from their peers that they’ll be ignored by school officials, that nothing will come of it,” he said.

KNWA pulled data from police departments in Northwest Arkansas. We found three reports of sexual assault or harassment reported at Fayetteville High School last school year. Police in Rogers took reports on six sexual assault cases at Rogers Public Schools in 2021. Springdale police reported 2-4 reports most years from Springdale schools. This data is limited. It only includes reports that were filed at school.

Levin says schools should start taking a more proactive approach to address this problem.

“Make sure they introduce this topic in sex education classes. Should it be part of the curriculum? Should they teach about consent? Should they teach about bystander intervention? There’s all these things schools can do to be proactive,” Levin said.

Stop Sexual Assault in Schools has a toolkit for families on its website. You can find it here.