Nearly one in five college women were victims of rape or attempted rape during their freshmen year, with the most falling prey during their first three months on campus, according to a new study.

The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, surveyed 480 female freshmen at a university in upstate New York in 2010. The results confirm other research that has found about 20 percent of women are victimized by sexual assault in college. 

The researcher, Kate Carey, professor of behavioral and social sciences in the Brown University School of Public Health, wrote that if a similar number of young people were breaking their legs in their first year of school, "we would expect that the community would do something to enhance the safety of the environment."

The study found sexual violence widespread. Among those surveyed, 37 percent said they were either raped or attacked by someone who attempted to rape them at least once from age 14 through the end of their freshman year.

Students were most vulnerable during fall semester of their freshmen year -- a period often called the "red zone" between the start of classes and Thanksgiving break.

"Implications here are clear; efforts to reduce risky alcohol use on college campuses—whether in the form of campus policies and programs or brief interventions in college health centers—would benefit from incorporating universal messages about healthy relationships and healthy sexuality, which are, in fact, strategies for violence prevention," Carey wrote. 

The report is available at