Sexual Assault Survey: High Rates of Nonconsensual Activity


The 2015 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct has released results showing that more than 11% of students and 28% of female undergraduates reported that they experienced some form of nonconsensual sexual activity involving the use of physical force or incapacity while at college.

The survey, conducted by the Association of American Universities, asked about the perpetrators’ methods as well, inquiring about force, incapacitation, coercion, or simply ignoring the absence of “affirmative consent.” Force was the most common tactic and coercion was the least common.

Most did not report the incident, and opinions were divided about how universities should handle reports. More than half said that they did not feel the incident was serious enough to report, and others said they were too embarrassed or ashamed.

However, most people who reported their sexual assault found universities to be helpful by respecting them and guiding them through available options.

David Cantor, a lead investigator and a University of Maryland research professor, said of this ambivalence in how university handling is viewed:

This sends a very strong message that each institution faces really unique circumstances and challenges when trying to change campus climates and prevent and respond to sexual assault and misconduct.

However, victimization is not random. The risk was highest for freshman women as 16.9% of whom reported sexual assault in the past year compared to 11.1% of seniors. Gender nonconforming students were also at particular risk: those who identified themselves as transgender, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, questioning, or another non-cisgender designation had the highest rates of assault. Gay and lesbian students reported a 60.4% harassment rate, while 45.9% of straight students said they had been harassed.

Association president Hunter Rawlings said:

The leaders of our universities are deeply concerned about the impact of these issues on their students. Their participation in this and other climate surveys is an important part of their efforts to combat sexual assault.

Most students said that they had done nothing when witnessing sexual violence, harassment, or someone headed for sexual activity while drunk, writes Teresa Watanabe of the Los Angeles Times.

Erin Logan of WTNH quoted Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro’s reaction to the findings:

The results of this report are disturbing and should be a wake-up call to all Americans. … Schools and law enforcement must work together to end this outrage, which happens on campuses across the country. A key part of that is ensuring victims feel comfortable coming forward and reporting crimes that have been perpetrated against them.

Washington University’s results were close to average at 10.9% reporting sexual misconduct, reports Farrah Fazal of KSDK. Sexual minorities reported a much higher rate of experiencing misconduct: 37% of LGBT and queer students at Washington University reported having experienced sexual assault. Jessica Kennedy, Washington University’s Title IX Director, said:

It’s nauseating, it’s heartbreaking, it’s horrifying, and to know they’re going through this breaks my heart.

Our graduate student population is well aware of our resources and we’re going to focus. Also, our LGBTQUIA is suffering at a much higher percentage and that is incredibly disheartening and that’s where we need to focus our efforts. That is a community that suffers more backlash, they don’t talk about it as much.

They surveyed 27 universities across the nation.

Colleen Quigley of Newsplex notes that since participation was optional, results may be inaccurate. For example, at the University of Virginia, a quarter of the students responded, and Student Council President Adam Axler concluded that:

There are inevitably differences between the 26% who responded and the 74% who did not respond.

09 29, 2015