AAU releases sexual assault survey


Matthew Adams

This article has been updated throughout since publication.

Almost one-fifth of female undergraduate students at the University have been victims of sexual assault, either by force or incapacitation during their time at UT, according to the results of a sexual assault survey released Monday.

UT was one of 27 schools to participate in the survey, which was conducted by the Association of American Universities. According to an AAU press release, the survey conducted between April 2015 and May 2015 collected responses from more than 150,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students from member universities. The survey conducted was one of the largest in scale performed in terms of the number of institutions involved, as well as the number of students surveyed in the U.S.

The report stated out of 49,740 students, about 13 percent of UT students responded to the 63-question survey. It addressed five topics including the climate surrounding sexual assault and sexual misconduct, what students know about resources available to them and the frequency of sexual assault, misconduct and harassment.

The study found that 53.5 percent of the surveyed students did not report an event related to force by penetration because students said they did not think the “incident was serious enough to report.” Students said the main reasons they didn’t report such incidents included fears about others not taking the situation seriously, a lack of confidentiality and feelings of shame.

UT President Gregory Fenves said that of the universities who took the survey, UT is among the one-third of schools with the lowest prevalence of sexual assault. Despite this, he said, improvements are necessary to better prevent sexual assaults.

“As the results make clear, there is much work to be done on our campus to combat sexual assault,” Fenves said. “One sexual assault is too many. It is essential that we foster a campus that does not tolerate sexual assaults, that strongly supports victims and encourages them to come forward and report incidents.”

In terms of sexual harassment, the survey found more than 45 percent of students indicated they were victims of sexual harassment. More than 91 percent said the offender was a student, but graduate students more often said the offender was a faculty member or another member of the University staff or administration.    

According to the survey, only five percent of male undergraduates reported being victims of nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching during their time at UT, as compared to the 18.5 percent of female undergraduates who experienced similar types of assault.

Many AAU members declined to participate in the survey, citing the $87,500 cost to participate and the broad nature of the survey, which wasn’t tailored specifically to each university.

AAU president Hunter Rawlings said some of the AAU members decided not to participate in the survey because they were already conducting their own survey and did not want to participate in two at the same time.

“AAU undertook this initiative to assist our universities in their ongoing efforts to address sexual assault and sexual misconduct on campus,” Rawlings said in a press release. “Our universities are working to ensure their campuses are safe places for students. The primary goal of the survey is to help them better understand the experiences and attitudes of their students with respect to this challenge.”

David Cantor, director of the statistical staff and vice president of Westat, which conducted the national survey, said the response to the national survey was lower than some of the climate surveys conducted by the universities.

Despite the response rate, Cantor said from the survey they were able to break down the differences between sexual harassment, coercion or absence of consent as a strength of the survey.

“We are able to break out rates by these particular type of events,” Cantor said. “As the data seems to show … the consequences of these events are very different, how people report these to the university are very different, who does it is very different.”