U.Va. releases results of second survey on student perceptions of campus sexual assault

Survey results show increased belief that officials would take reports of sexual assault or misconduct seriously

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 A prospective organization on Grounds, the University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, is claiming that the University violated constitutional rights and state law as a result of the group being denied Contracted Independent Organization (CIO) status. 

Lauren Hornsby | Cavalier Daily

The University released the results of a climate survey analyzing perceptions of sexual assault Friday. 

According to the survey, in the 2016-17 school year, 11.8 percent of female undergraduate students and 2.3 percent of male undergraduate students reported incidence of sexual assault by physical force, threat of physical force or incapacitation. In 2015, 13.4 percent of female undergraduate students and 3.2 percent of male undergraduate students reported having been sexually assaulted by physical force, threat of physical force or incapacitation.

The University participated in the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, administered by Westat, a research and analytics company. In 2015, the University was one of 27 institutions to participate in the survey as a part of the Association of American Universities.

According to the 2017 survey, 70.4 percent of students believe it is very or extremely likely a victim would be supported by his or her peers in reporting a sexual assault or misconduct to an official, up from 56.3 percent of students in 2015. Additionally, 72.7 percent of students believe it is very or extremely likely officials would take a report of sexual assault seriously, an increase from 58.8 percent in 2015.

The survey found that 44.8 percent of students said it is very or extremely likely officials would take action against an offender, up from 28.2 percent in 2015. 

In 2015-16, after the 2015 survey was administered, one student was expelled for violating Title IX policy, which includes sexual assault, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment and other forms of misconduct. In 2016-17, eight students were expelled.

“The climate survey is … going to guide our initiatives moving forward through the Title IX office,” Emily Babb, assistant vice president for Title IX compliance at the University, said in an interview Friday. “We saw an increase in our statistics over the 2015-2017 academic years … we’ve seen across the board increases in awareness and a student’s understanding or belief of how the University would respond.”

The survey was distributed to a random sample of 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students in March and April, yielding a 54.5 percent response rate. In 2015, it was administered to the entire undergraduate and graduate student body, with a 26.4 percent response rate.

“We’re using [the results] to target training, also outreach to students, identifying particular groups, also identifying what areas we need to improve in making sure … faculty, staff and students are aware of the Title IX policy ... as well as aware of the confidential resources on-Grounds,” Babb said. “The survey came back with some additional information regarding LGBTQ [students], reaching out to … students with disability through SDAC and other partners on-Grounds, students of color as well.”

The Title IX Office, Babb said, also wants to increase the number of focus groups engaging in conversations about sexual assault prevention with the office.

“We were already reaching out and have already had focus groups help with students with disabilities or student leaders at the Multicultural Student Center to try to help us to continue to plan, because that’s an area where we want to keep doing more,” said Catherine Spear, associate vice president in the Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights.

The University also released the 2016-17 Report on Response to Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence, which shows that the Title IX Office resolved 40 reports of prohibited conduct, 16 of which resulted in sanctions.

“We are publishing those to give the University community an idea of what kind of reports we are resolving through our formal process and what the findings are with regard to responsible or not responsible, and then the range of sanctions as well,” Babb said.

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