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09/22/2015 10:37 am ET | Updated Feb 03, 2017

Here's What We Learned About Sexual Assault At 27 Top Universities

Here's what students at each campus said about sexual violence.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Association of American Universities on Monday released the results of one of the largest national surveys of college students’ experiences with sexual violence on campus, with responses from more than 150,000 students.

Each of the 27 participating schools released its own campus-specific results as well. The typical report was 124 pages long, making for a mountain of data on campus rape that can be difficult to narrow down.

AAU is a trade group for some of the most elite universities, including most of the Ivy League and many of the top flagship state institutions, so they make clear their survey results may not be representative of college students nationwide. AAU was also clear to note in multiple conversations with reporters in recent days that the results of the surveys vary between the 27 participating schools.

Some outlets have focused on survey results that consider sexual assault under a broader definition, including all nonconsensual kissing, touching or groping. This misconduct can still fit the definition of sexual abuse or battery, though researchers like Mary Koss of the University of Arizona worry it muddies the waters by lumping in too many types of misconduct.

Under these broader definitions, the rates typically land close to 1 in 4 women saying they were the victim of a sexual assault. But limiting it to sexual assault involving by penetration using force or incapacitation, which matches the typical criminal statute, the rate from the AAU results is 1 in 10 undergraduate women experiencing this type of assault. 

The rate for each type of sexual assault or harassment increased when limiting to just the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or queer students. Each question has its own margin of error.  

The Huffington Post narrowed in on three key aspects of the survey results: the rate at which undergraduate women reported sexual assault involving penetration by force or incapacitation, how students felt their school would handle a report of sexual violence, and whether students intervened in risky or problematic situations. 

Many of the universities are under federal Title IX investigation for how they handle sexual assault, but at those schools, a majority of students think the school takes reports seriously.

Yet, at Brown University and Dartmouth College, just 38 and 36 percent of female undergraduates, respectively, think their university would conduct a fair investigation. If that seems low, note that only 18.1 percent of female undergrads at Columbia University think their school would conduct a fair investigation ― one of the lowest ratings of any of the 27 institutions. 

Takeaways from the individual school results of the AAU climate survey:

(The first bullet point under each school below only reflects the number of female undergraduates in these surveys who experienced sexual assault by nonconsensual penetration involving force or incapacitation.)

University of Florida

  • 9.5 percent of female undergrads were victims of nonconsensual penetration since starting at UF.

  • Overall, 67.5 percent of students believe its’ “very or extremely likely” a report of sexual assault would be taken seriously by the school, and 51.1 percent believe it is likely officials would “take action against the offender.”

  • A total of 79.6 percent said they did nothing when they witnessed a “drunken person heading for a sexual encounter,” and 58.2 percent did nothing when they witnessed someone acting in a “sexually violent or harassing manner.” 

Case Western Reserve University

  • 9.6 percent of female undergrads were victims of nonconsensual penetration since starting at Case Western. 

  • 59.5 percent of students believe it’s “very or extremely likely” the school would protect their safety if they reported a sexual assault, and 53.1 percent think it’s likely that a fair investigation would take place. In addition, 48.7 percent think it is likely the university would take action against an offender ― but that number dropped when considering just female undergraduates, 35.7 percent of whom feel this way.

  • Of those who witnessed a “drunken person heading for a sexual encounter,”  73.0 percent indicated that they did nothing, and 49.2 percent indicated that they did nothing when witnessing someone acting “in a sexually violent or harassing manner.”

A version of the Case Western results are available here, but the full report requires a university ID.

Columbia University

  • 10.9 percent of female undergrads have experienced sexual assault by penetration since starting at Columbia.

  • 46.1 percent think it is very or extremely likely the school would take a report of sexual assault seriously. But when asked if the school would conduct a fair investigation, only 30 percent think it’d be fair. A dismal 18.1 percent of female undergraduates think “it would be very or extremely likely” that the school would conduct a fair investigation in a sexual assault case.

  • 79.8 percent indicated that they did nothing when they saw a drunken person heading for a sexual encounter, and 57.4 percent indicated that they did nothing about “someone acting in a sexually violent or harassing manner.” 

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Students stand in front of the Library of the Columbia University with a mattress in protest of the university's handling of sexual assault. 

University of Michigan

  • 13.2 percent of female undergrads were victims of nonconsensual penetration involving force or incapacitation since starting college. 

  • 57.3 percent think it’s very or extremely likely university officials would take a report of sexual assault seriously, though this drops to 43.7 percent when just asking female undergrads. 

  • 78.6 percent did nothing when witnessing a “drunken person heading for a sexual encounter,” with a quarter saying they weren’t sure what to do. 

Iowa State University

  • 9 percent of female undergraduates have experienced sexual assault involving penetration since starting college. 

  • Overall, three-in-four students think it’s “very or extremely likely” campus officials would take a report of sexual assault seriously, though fewer LGBTQ students think this. 64.5 percent of students overall think it’s similarly likely a fair investigation would occur in these cases.

  • 75.8 percent took no action when witnessing a “drunken person heading for a sexual encounter,” and 52.4 percent did nothing when they saw someone “acting in a sexually violent or harassing manner.”

University of Pittsburgh

  • 10.1 percent of undergraduate women experienced sexual assault by force or incapacitation involving penetration. 

  • A total of 67.8 percent think campus officials take reports of sexual assault seriously, including 63.4 percent of female undergrads. 

  • Four-in-five students said they didn’t do anything when they witnessed someone headed for a drunken sexual encounter.

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

  • 12.5 percent of female undergraduate students were victims of sexual assault involving penetration since starting their collegiate career. 

  • 57.8 percent think the school would take a report of sexual assault seriously, though the rate drops to 48.7 percent when just taking the opinion of female undergraduates. When asked if a fair investigation would take place in these cases, 37.9 percent overall said they believe this would occur, while 49.3 percent of male undergrads think so.  

  • 77.3 percent did nothing when witnessing a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter, with the main reasons being they weren’t sure what to do or they had an undisclosed reason for not acting.

University of Virginia

  • 11.4 percent were victims of nonconsensual penetration involving force or incapacitation since starting at UVA.

  • 58.8 percent of students think it’s “very or extremely likely” a report of sexual assault would be taken seriously, while 42 percent think it’s likely a fair investigation would follow. Just 28 percent said they think school officials would take action against an offender in sexual assault cases, compared to the AAU aggregate finding of 45 percent of students nationwide thinking this is likely to happen at their university.

  • 76.5 percent said they did nothing when witnessing a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter.

Brown University

  • Among female undergraduates, 10.1 percent were victims of nonconsensual penetration involving force or incapacitation.

  • Half of all students think sexual assault reports are taken seriously, but it drops to just 38 percent among female undergrads.

  • 77 percent did nothing when they witnessed “a drunken person heading for a sexual encounter,” but women were twice as likely as men to intervene. Another question found 55 percent did nothing when they saw someone “acting in a sexually violent or harassing manner,” with the main reasons being because they didn’t know what to do or had another undisclosed reason. 

Harvard University

  • Among undergraduate women, 11.6 percent were victims of nonconsensual penetration involving force or incapacitation since starting at Harvard.

  • Three-in-five students overall think the university takes reports of sexual assault seriously.

  • Four-in-five did nothing when seeing a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter, while 53 percent didn’t intervene when they saw a person acting in a sexually violent or harassing manner.

Cornell University

  • Since starting at Cornell, 9.9 percent of undergrad women in the survey were victims of nonconsensual penetration involving force or incapacitation.

  • 64.4 percent of students think reports of sexual assault are taken seriously by campus officials, including a majority of undergraduate women. About 44 percent think it’s “very or extremely likely” that there would be a fair investigation in a sexual assault case, and that campus officials would take action against the offender. But just 30 percent of undergraduate women think the university would punish an assailant, compared to 52.7 percent of male undergraduate students.

  • Four-in-five did nothing when they witnessed a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter, while 56.3 percent said they did nothing when witnessing someone behaving sexually aggressively. 

Michigan State University

  • Among female undergrads, “11.7 percent were victims of completed or attempted nonconsensual penetration involving force or incapacitation.”

  • 59 percent of students think campus officials would take a report of sexual assault seriously, and 49 percent think the university would do a fair investigation. 

  • Three-fourths of students did nothing when witnessing a student heading for a drunken sexual encounter, and 52 percent did nothing when witnessing someone behaving in a sexually aggressive manner. 

University of Oregon

  • 10.6 percent of undergraduate women were victims of nonconsensual penetration involving force or incapacitation since entering UO.

  • 53 percent of students think “that it is very or extremely likely that [a sexual assault] report would be taken seriously by campus officials.” Just 32.6 percent of female graduate students believe that to be true, while undergraduate women remain fairly confident. And just 37.4 percent of all students strongly believe the college would conduct a fair investigation of sexual assault. 

  • 73.4 percent indicated that they did nothing when witnessing a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter, but 50.5 percent of bystanders did not take some type of action when they saw someone behaving in a sexually violent manner. 

Yale University

  • 13.2 percent of undergrad women said they experienced penetrative sexual assault since starting at Yale.

  • 57.6 percent of students overall think it’s “very or extremely likely” that sexual assault reports are taken seriously by campus officials, but just 39.7 percent think it is “very or extremely likely” the university would conduct a fair investigation. Both men and women were pessimistic about that projection. 

  • 78.4 percent said they did nothing when they witnessed a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter, and 56.9 percent did nothing when they “witnessed someone acting in a sexually violent or harassing manner.”

University of Texas at Austin

  • For undergrad women, 8 percent were victims of sexual assault involving penetration. 

  • 61.9 percent think “it is very or extremely likely that [a sexual assault] report would be taken seriously by campus officials,” including a majority of both men and women. 47.4 percent think it’s very or extremely likely the university would conduct a fair investigation in these cases.

  • Three-in-four did nothing when they saw a drunk person approaching a sexual encounter, and 54 percent did nothing when they saw someone acting in a sexually violent or harassing manner.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

  • 12.6 percent of undergrad women experienced sexual assault involving penetration.

  • A total of 70.8 percent of students think UW-Madison takes reports of sexual assault seriously, among the highest nationwide, with a full 66 percent of undergraduate women supporting that statement. A majority also thought campus officials would conduct a fair investigation, but undergraduate women were inclined to believe the school wouldn’t take action against the offender.

University of Southern California 

  • Since entering USC, 14.5 percent of female undergraduates “experienced nonconsensual penetration involving force or incapacitation.”

  • Three-in-five students think the university would take a report of sexual assault seriously, and 47.7 percent think it’s “very or extremely likely” the school would conduct a fair investigation. 

  • 75 percent did nothing when they saw a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter, and 54.7 percent did nothing when they saw someone acting in a sexually violent or harassing manner.

California Institute of Technology

  • Since starting at CalTech, 5.7 percent of undergraduate women were victims of nonconsensual penetration involving force or incapacitation.

  • 77.7 percent of students overall think the school would take a report of sexual assault seriously, and 58.7 percent think it’s true the school would conduct a fair investigation.

  • “A total of 81.7 percent indicated that they did nothing” when witnessing a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter, and 48.3 percent did nothing when witnessing someone act in a sexually violent or harassing manner.

Ohio State University

  • 10.9 percent of undergraduate females at Ohio State were the victim of sexual assault involving penetration.

  • 63.6 percent think school officials would take a report of sexual assault seriously, and half think the university would conduct a fair investigation.

  • 77.3 percent didn’t do anything when they saw someone heading for a drunken sexual encounter, and 56 percent failed to intervene when they saw someone behaving in a sexually violent manner.

University of Missouri

  • 12.3 percent of female undergrads “were victims of nonconsensual penetration involving force or incapacitation” since starting at the university.

  • 64.7 percent of students overall think the school would take a report of sexual assault seriously, and exactly half think the institution would lead a fair investigation.

  • 71.3 percent indicated they did nothing when they saw a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter, and 49.4 percent failed to act when seeing someone act in a sexually violent manner.

University of Minnesota

  • “Among female undergraduates 12.0 percent were victims of nonconsensual penetration involving force or incapacitation since entering University of Minnesota - Twin Cities.”

  • 63.1 percent think it’s likely a report of sexual assault would be taken seriously, and 48.7 percent said it’s true the school would conduct a fair investigation. 

  • Three-fourths of students said they did nothing about witnessing a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter, and 55.8 percent did nothing about someone acting sexually violent or in a harassing manner. 

Dartmouth College

  • For female undergrads, 13.3 percent were victims of nonconsensual penetration since starting at the Hanover, New Hampshire, college. 

  • Two-thirds think the college would take a report of sexual assault seriously, while 43.5 percent think the school would conduct a fair investigation. That rate drops to 36.1 percent for female undergrads. 

  • 69.1 percent did nothing when they saw a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter, and 42.3 percent did nothing when witnessing someone acting in a sexually violent or harassing manner. 

Purdue University

  • 10.6 percent of female undergrads were the victim of sexual assault involving penetration since starting at the school.

  • 68.2 percent of all students think the university would take a report of sexual assault seriously, and 56 percent foresee the school conducting a fair investigation in these cases.

  • When witnessing a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter, 79 percent did nothing, and 57.6 percent did nothing when they saw someone acting in a sexually violent or harassing way.

University of Arizona

  • 11.2 percent of female undergrads were victims of nonconsensual penetration involving force or incapacitation in their college career.

  • 61.9 percent of all students think the university would take a report of sexual assault seriously, and 48.8 percent believe the school would conduct a fair investigation in such a case.

  • When witnessing a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter, 77 percent did not act, and 57.6 percent didn’t intervene when seeing some act in a sexually violent or harassing manner.

University of Pennsylvania

  • 12 percent of female undergrads experienced nonconsensual penetration involving force or incapacitation while at UPenn.

  • 58.1 percent of students think the university would take a report of sexual assault seriously, though 42.5 percent think the school would conduct a fair investigation, including just 34.3 percent of undergraduate women who feel that way.

  • When witnessing a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter, 82 percent did nothing, among the highest of all universities. 58 percent of students who saw someone acting in a sexually violent or harassing manner did not intervene. 

Washington University in St. Louis

  • 11.9 percent of female undergrads were sexually assaulted by penetration since starting school at Washington University.

  • More than two-thirds of students think the university would take a report of sexual assault seriously, while 53.2 percent think the institution would conduct a fair investigation in these cases.

  • When witnessing a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter, 77.2 percent did nothing, and 53.8 percent didn’t do anything in situations where someone acted sexually violent.

Texas A&M University

  • 7 percent of female undergrads were victims of sexual assault involving penetration and force or incapacitation, among the lowest of all 27 campuses.

  • 73.4 percent of students believe the university would take a report of sexual assault seriously, and 61 percent think the school would conduct a fair investigation of an assault.

  • When witnessing a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter, 76 percent did nothing, and 57 percent failed to act when someone was being sexually violent or harassing.

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Tyler Kingkade covers higher education and sexual violence, and is based in New York. You can contact him at tyler.kingkade@huffingtonpost.com, or on Twitter: @tylerkingkade.

 

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