Survey: 1 in 4 undergrad women at U of M reported sexual violence on campus

Bridge crossing sign
The Washington Avenue bridge on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.
John Hernandez

About 1 in 4 undergraduate women at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities said they were sexually assaulted on campus, according to a recent survey of 33 major universities released Tuesday.

The results mirror findings at the other universities surveyed, which included several Ivy League schools.

The 25.6 percent of undergraduate women at UM who reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact was a 2.6 percent increase from 2015 — the last and only other time the Association of American Universities conducted a Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct.

Overall, 18.7 percent of U of M students reported experiencing harassment, and 38.3 percent experienced harassing behaviors on campus. About 8 percent of undergraduate men reported some type of nonconsensual sexual contact, according to survey findings.

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The survey results come on the heels of a report by the state’s Office of Higher Education that showed the number of sexual assault cases reported to Minnesota colleges and universities increased for the second straight year in 2017, but fewer than half were investigated by schools, according to data released in June.

Data to be used for future training, outreach

The U of M will use the AAU survey data to inform its work around sexual misconduct, president Joan Gabel said in a statement.

“I appreciate that so many of our students made their voices heard on this troubling and important issue,” she said. “Fostering a campus environment where everyone feels welcome, safe, supported and free of harassment requires every member of our community to take responsibility for their actions and to do their part to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct.”

Katie Eichele, director of the on-campus Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education, said the numbers also show that campus initiatives around sexual assault education are working.

“We actually saw a good increase in there in terms of acknowledging some of our campus outreach initiatives increased from 30.5 percent to 35.7 percent,” she said.

The data showed that 87.7 percent of incoming students indicated completing at least one training, which was a 47.6 percent increase from 2015.

Eichele said the data will help determine what sexual assault training and policy will look like going forward.

“We have been studying the data to find out: What does it all mean and what does it all say?” she said. “Then trying to figure out who needs to be able to have direct conversations with — whether it's different leaders on campus or different programs, how do we get students involved. And then from there, looking at the different areas of what else do we need to do in terms of adjusting policies.”

Digging into the data

Eichele said the Aurora Center also hopes to more closely examine the impact sexual misconduct has on marginalized groups, including students of color and LGBT students.

“The data is already showing that our LGBT, our trans-identified, our gender-nonconforming students actually experience higher levels of sexual misconduct in almost all of the areas,” she said.

Close to 13,000 UM students participated in the survey with a 29.1 percent response rate, double the rate of the 2015 survey.

In all, 181,752 students out of a total student sample size of 830,936 completed the survey. Four of the eight Ivy League universities participated: Harvard, Yale, Brown and the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to Minnesota, the universities of Arizona, Chicago, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Rochester and Southern California also participated.

“The results provide cause for both hope and continued concern,” AAU President Mary Sue Coleman said in a statement quoted in the Washington Post. “They reveal that while students know more about university-sponsored resources for victims of sexual assault and misconduct, they still aren’t using these resources often enough.”

She added: “The rates are still high — too high.”

Editor’s note (Oct. 21, 2019): Some readers may have been misled by the number of students nationally who participated in the survey. To clarify, 181,752 students out of a total student sample size of 830,936 completed the survey.