Study shines light on campus sexual violence

Lisa Neff, Staff writer

About 11.7 percent of students across 27 universities reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation since they enrolled.

The incidence of experiencing sexual assault and sexual misconduct among female undergraduate students was 23.1 percent. The rate was 5.4 percent for male undergraduates, according to the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct released by the Association of American Universities.

Twenty-seven universities, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, participated in the survey, which took place in the spring and involved more than 150,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students.

“Our universities are working to ensure their campuses are safe places for students,” said Hunter Rawlings, president of AAU, an organization of 62 private and public research universities. “The primary goal of the survey is to help them better understand the experiences and attitudes of their students with respect to this challenge.”

The survey, one of the largest to date dealing with campus sexual violence, looked at whether survivors of sexual assault and sexual misconduct reported incidents to the university or another organization, such as law enforcement. It revealed that rates of reporting were low, ranging from 5 percent to 28 percent, depending on the specific type of behavior.

Students said they did not report incidents because they felt “embarrassed, ashamed or that it would be too emotionally difficult.” Another explanation: Students said they “did not think anything would be done about it.”

Other findings in the survey:

• Rates of sexual assault and misconduct are highest among undergraduate females and those identifying as transgender, genderqueer, non-conforming and questioning.

• The risk of the most serious types of nonconsensual sexual contact due to physical force or incapacitation decline from freshman year to senior year.

• Nonconsensual sexual contact involving drugs and alcohol constitutes a significant percentage of the incidents.

• A little fewer than half of the students surveyed witnessed a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter. Among those who reported being a witness, most did not try to intervene.

Last year, when the White House launched the “It’s on Us” campaign to keep women and men safe from sexual violence, the administration encouraged people to take a personal pledge that includes a promise “to intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given.”

Other elements of the pledge: to recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault, to identify situations in which sexual assault may occur and to create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

UW-Madison: It’s on Us

Earlier in October, UW-Madison joined the “It’s on Us” campaign, displaying its commitment to the effort at the Badger’s homecoming football game on Oct. 17.

In addition, a series of “It’s on Us” videos — featuring UW athletes Vitto Brown, Corey Clement and Sydney McKibbon, athletic director Barry Alvarez and men’s hockey coach Mike Eaves — will be played at home games at Camp Randall Stadium, the Kohl Center and LaBahn Arena.

“We are pleased to join with the campus in raising awareness of this issue,” said Alvarez. “We are constantly educating our staff and student-athletes about creating an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported, and this is a great way for us to share that message.”

More than 40 student leaders at UW-Madison, along with University Health Services, the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, the UW Police Department and the Division of Student Life took the “It’s on Us” pledge.