Mar 26, 2017 9:40 PM
ercent of female undergraduates in the University of Texas system's academic institutions say they have been raped since enrolling, according to a system-wide survey on sexual assault and misconduct released Friday by the University of Texas.
The university system calls the Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments report, conducted by University of Texas Austin's Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, "the most in-depth survey of sexual assault and misconduct ever undertaken by an institution or system of higher education in the U.S." More than 28,000 students "voluntarily and confidentially" answered questions surrounding their experiences with on- and off-campus sexual assault since enrolling, their views on how the university handles these issues, and how the experiences affected them. The only campus that didn't participate was the University of Texas Health Northeast, which didn't survey its students because there are too few enrolled to "protect their anonymity," according to the study's press release.
“If we want to understand and continuously improve our campus culture in order to facilitate student success, then we have to be open and honest about our students’ experiences beyond the classroom, no matter how uncomfortable it is,” University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven said in the survey's press release.
The survey is part of a $1.7-million study led by McRaven. It's hoped that the responses provide a deeper, more nuanced understanding of sexual assault and misconduct on campus—and help the university take effective action against those issues. By polling multiple campuses, for example, some stark findings came to light. For instance, at the system's eight academic institutions, 10 percent of female undergraduate students reported being raped; at the five health institutions in the U.T. system, it was 4 percent.
Of course, it's important to remember that with survey-based studies, the sampling of respondents isn't representative of the UT system or of the country as a whole: it's potentially made up disproportionally of people who might be more interested than the average student and therefore more likely to want to participate. As a point of comparison, the approximately 28,000 respondents make up about 12.65 percent of a total U.T. student population of around 221,300. Surveys also rely on self-reported information, which means researchers risk their data being impacted in either direction by people who aren't being entirely honest.
That being said, here are some key findings:
- 10 percent of female undergrads and 4 percent of male undergrads enrolled in the system's academic institutions reported being raped. Numbers were lower for students enrolled at health institutions (4 percent and 2 percent, respectively).
- 15 percent of female undergraduate students at U.T. Austin say that they've been raped since enrolling.
- At U.T. Austin, 68 percent of students who said they experienced "interpersonal violence" (which includes rape and harassment) didn't tell anyone about the incident. Only 6 percent told someone at the university.
- Findings appeared to confirm other common findings of sexual assault studies: in the majority of cases of "unwanted sexual contact" (unwanted touching, attempted rape, and rape), alcohol and drugs were in play; and the majority of the time, the attacker was someone the student knew.
- The vast majority of incidents happened off campus.
“The findings of this study shine a brighter light on sexual assault and misconduct that affects U.T. students and give us a deeper understanding of how to address these problems," McRaven said.
The University of Texas system isn't an outlier with these numbers, according to the press release, which said that "the prevalence rates of various types of victimization are comparable to rates at other institutions nationwide."
Hopefully the survey will serve as an example to other universities and provide tools for institutions elsewhere to combat these issues. It certainly sounds like U.T. is happy to share what they're learning and implementing: “The goal is to arm institutions with information so they can continue to improve the safety and well-being of students and remove barriers that stand in the way of educational goals," director Noël Busch-Armendariz, Ph.D. of the U.T. Austin Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault said.