Campus climate survey shows nearly one in four women experiences sexual assault, misconduct at U.Va.

Sexual assault remains major concern for students despite extensive University efforts

The results of a campus climate survey released Monday on sexual misconduct at the University of Virginia shows nearly one in four undergraduate women has experienced sexual assault or sexual misconduct since enrolling, and that more than two-thirds of University students do not believe the University would take action against an offender if an assault were reported.

Though bystander intervention programs have been a hallmark of University sexual assault education and prevention programs, nearly 77 percent of respondents said they did nothing in a situation in which they witnessed a drunken person heading for a sexual encounter.

University President Teresa Sullivan said she expects this number to be lower in the future because students are going through mandatory training.

The Association of American Universities conducted the survey last April, nearly five months after Rolling Stone published a now-retracted story detailing the graphic rape of a University student named Jackie. The University was one of 27 schools surveyed and participated voluntarily. The survey was distributed to all undergraduate and graduate students, and more than one quarter of the student body responded.

Only 28 percent of students said they believed it was very or extremely likely that University officials would take action against an offender in a case of sexual assault. This is compared to an average 45 percent of students from all universities surveyed, representing one of the largest gaps.

Less than half of students believe it is very or extremely likely that a fair investigation would occur, at 42 percent.

University students are also significantly more likely to say sexual assault is a problem on Grounds than are students at other schools. Nearly 39 percent reported sexual assault is very much or extremely problematic, compared to an average 20 percent.

Overall, almost 13 percent of students at U.Va. reported experiencing sexual assault or sexual misconduct by physical force, threats of physical force or incapacitation since enrolling.

These incidents occurred among 23.8 percent of female University undergraduates, a figure approaching but not surpassing the survey-wide average of 24.2 percent.

Almost 5 percent of male undergraduates reported experiencing sexual assault or sexual misconduct.

Barely half of students said they believe it is likely a victim would be supported by other students if he or she reports an assault to a University official, at 56 percent.

Reported student awareness of University resources ranged from 85 percent (the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services) to 19 percent (the University’s Title IX coordinator).

When compared to the aggregate AAU survey findings, University students reported more knowledge of resources, policies and procedures surrounding sexual assault, said Education Prof. Nancy Deutsch, who was involved in developing the survey.

The Obama administration has called for universities and colleges to conduct campus climate surveys since launching a task force on student sexual assaults in January 2014.

Sullivan said the University will repeat the climate survey periodically to get a sense of changing perceptions on Grounds.

“The survey results provide an important baseline of information that will enable us to measure and track our efforts as we continue to enhance the safety of our community while promoting a culture of respect at the University,” Sullivan said. “The AAU Climate Survey does represent one more way in which we’re trying to improve the conditions [on Grounds].”

Student Council President Abraham Axler, a third-year College student, said the percent of University students who believe campus officials would take action against an offender was "among the most guiding results." 

Still, he sought to highlight that not all survivors would like to take action against a perpetrator, nor does any survivor who does take action have an obligation to share his or her story.

"The combination of these two factors may inform some of the discrepancy between U.Va. and the AAU average," Axler said in a statement.

University of Virginia Campus Climate Survey Results

A previous version of this story ran with the headline "Nearly one in four women sexually assaulted at U.Va." The article has been updated to clarify the statistic. 

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