Today, the Association of American Universities released aggregate data from the climate survey it conducted at 27 of its member campuses. The results reinforced some of the findings from other campus climate surveys, but also revealed startling new information about how students respond that could inform campus’s prevention programs.
The AAU report says that “the primary goal of the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct was to provide…information to inform policies to prevent and respond to sexual assault and misconduct.” They survey assessed the incidence and prevalence of sexual assault, the perceptions of risk, the knowledge of resources, and the likelihood of action.
Just over 150,000 students participated in the survey, giving a response rate of around 19%. When students were offered a $5 Amazon gift card, their response rate was 9.3% higher than when they were offered drawing entry or no incentive. The response rate for females was 7.3% higher than for males. Results varied across the 27 campuses who administered the AAU survey, and it is expected that many schools will release their individual data as well. Although the response rate was lower than desired, this survey gives us one of the largest data pools of its kind.
Overall, there are some findings that are consistent across all campuses.
- Results confirmed the widely cited statistic that “one in five” women will experience sexual assault while at college.
- Transgender, Genderqueer, and Gender Nonconforming students are more likely to experience sexual assault or misconduct across all categories.
- About one quarter of students reported feeling very or extremely knowledgeable about where to report sexual assault.
- More than 75% of sexual assault cases were never reported using official systems of reporting.
- Males are more optimistic than females that someone who reports a sexual assault will be supported by their peers.
- The most common reason for not reporting sexual assault was that it was “not considered serious enough,” with high numbers also in feeling “embarrassed or ashamed” and “did not think anything would be done.”
- Over a quarter of senior females reported experiencing sexual contact by force or incapacitation since entering college.
Some of the most interesting results of the findings related to perception of risk and bystander behaviors. Around 20% believe that sexual assault is very or extremely problematic on their campus, but only 5% thought that it was very likely that they would experience it. Over half of students who had witnessed someone acting sexually violent or harassing said they did nothing to intervene. Over three quarters of students who had witnessed a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter said they did nothing to intervene.
What does this mean for student affairs professionals and college administrators? There are a number of action-steps that can be taken from the information gathered through this survey.
- Sexual assault and misconduct are massive problems on college campuses, and not isolated to individual institutions who are in the media.
- Even when people believe sexual assault is a rampant problem on their campus, they are unlikely to believe it could happen to them. Students need to be given a realistic understanding about the context of sexual assault on college campuses.
- Although very few students reported through official means, most students told a friend. Students need the resources and tools to be able to help friends who have experienced sexual assault or misconduct.
- Students didn’t report for a number of reasons, but most frequently because they did not consider it serious enough. If schools want accurate reporting numbers, they need to send a clear message of what is included in sexual assault or misconduct policies.
- Most students did not intervene even when they noticed a potential sexual assault. Bystander intervention efforts need to focus both on recognizing what constitutes sexual assault or misconduct and also build motivation for intervention, give students the tools they need, and develop the skills and confidence to intervene.
If you’d like to learn more about climate surveys and discuss ways that you can develop your own or use the aggregate data from the AAU survey to inform your campus programming, join us on Tuesday, October 13th for a webinar with Jessica Ladd from Sexual Health Innovations and Peter Novak from the University of San Francisco. Register at http://bit.ly/1KP34ZT.
To view the entire 288-page report, go here.
To view the survey tool developed by Westat, go here.
To view the fact-sheet summary, go here.