Survey: Survivors of sexual assault at University unlikely to report crime

A statistical breakdown of the AAU survey results

A statistical breakdown of the AAU survey results Buy this photo
Graphic by Emily Schumer

 

Monday, September 21, 2015 - 1:04pm

About 30 percent of undergraduate women at the University reported experiencing nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching by force or incapacitation during their time at the University, a new report released Monday found. Nationwide, the figure was 23.1 percent.

Of University students who experienced nonconsensual penetration involving physical force, 76.8 percent of them did not report the crime. 

These findings come from a set of data released by the Association of American Universities, which surveyed 28 top research universities, including the University.

Of all students who said they did not report their experience of sexual misconduct, 37.4 percent said it was because they didn't think anything would be done about it. Of all students surveyed, 40.2 percent indicated it was extremely or very likely that campus officials would conduct a fair investigation of a reported instance of sexual misconduct. 

Nationwide, 11.7 percent of surveyed college students experienced nonconsensual sexual contact as a result of force or incapacitation, according to the survey. The figure was 14.6 percent at the University.

Nationally, 50 percent of students who experienced sexual misconduct said they did not report the incident because they didn’t consider it serious enough.

Of University students surveyed, 30.3 percent of undergraduate women at the University reported experiencing nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching by force or incapacitation during their time at the University. Nationwide, the figure was 23.1 percent.

Holly Rider-Milkovich, director the University’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, said the survey data will help inform the University’s approach to sexual misconduct.

“With regard to some areas of nonconsensual sexual behavior, our numbers are higher than the aggregate data, while in other areas we are consistent with it,” she said. “But in all cases, the numbers are too high and we are committed to continuing to address the issue of sexual misconduct. The data from these surveys are critical to our work. The more we know about our community, the better we are able to tailor our programs to be most effective.”

The AAU survey results come several months after the University released its own sexual assault report in June. The University’s data showed 22.5 percent of female students were sexually assaulted during their time at the school.

The AAU survey did point to consistencies with the University’s own survey results — namely that most instances of sexual assault occurred after verbal pressure, under the influence of drugs or when too drunk to stop what was happening.

With the new and sweeping set of data, University administrators will now be able to both gauge the accuracy of its own campus sexual assault survey results and assess how the University’s findings compare to peer institutions nationwide.

According to a University release, 6,700 University students participated in the AAU survey, making for a 17.6-percent response rate. The national response rate was 19.3 percent.

The AAU survey also pointed to high numbers of sexual harassment among students. Nationally, 61.9 percent of female undergraduates reported being sexually harassed. At the University specifically, 54.7 percent of students reported having experienced sexual harassment since entering college, and 73.2 percent of female undergraduate students reported instances of sexual harassment.

The AAU survey found 60.4 percent of gay and lesbian students report being sexually harassed, compared to 45.9 percent of heterosexual students.

The AAU survey also reported that transgender, genderqueer, non-conforming or questioning students had the highest rates of sexual assault.

The national data also reveals a general hesitance to report instances of sexual misconduct, with some variance based upon the severity of misconduct.

Nationwide, the highest reporting rates occurred when a subject was stalked (28 percent) or physically forced into penetration (25.5 percent), but drop to 5 percent if the subject was sexually touched while incapacitated.

Additionally, 35.9 percent of students who experienced sexual misconduct did not report because they were “embarrassed,” “ashamed” — or because doing so “would be too emotionally difficult.” One-third of students said they did not report because they did not think anything would be done.

In a conference call with reporters, AAU President Hunter Rawlings said he hopes the participating universities will use the survey data to the benefit of their students.

“The purpose of this survey is to enhance the safety of students on our campuses,” he said. “It is our hope that these universities and others will be able to make use of these data on behalf of their students.”

The AAU survey’s large sample size, in both universities studied and number of student respondents, makes it unique among similar surveys conducted on campus climate.

With a national response rate of 19.3 percent, Bonnie Fisher, professor at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Education Criminal Justice and Human Services and developer of the survey, said the relatively large sample size allows analysts to get a more accurate picture of campus climate.

“This is a strength because it allows for a greater estimation of the prevalence of different forms of sexual assault and sexual misconduct on each campus,” Fisher said in a conference call with reporters.

Some data points, including whether students would report and how students believed the University would respond to a reported assault, varied by up to 25 percentage points among college campuses. According to David Cantor, who is vice president of Westat, the research firm that conducted the survey, factors such as size and whether the institution is public or private only provide a weak correlation to explain the variance.

“It is important to slice and dice these events very carefully and that is one of the strengths of the survey,” Cantor said in the conference call.

University President Mark Schlissel has identified sexual assault on campus as a top priority for his administration. The University’s response to allegations of sexual misconduct is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education. Earlier this month, Schlissel told The Michigan Daily that he hopes to update the University’s Student Sexual Misconduct Policy before the new year.

Daily Staff Reporter Lara Moehlman contributed reporting.