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Penn State Releases Results of Sexual Misconduct Survey

by on April 14, 2016 12:23 PM
University Park, PA

The results of a survey released by Penn State on Wednesday show 18.1 percent of undergraduate students and 6.7 percent of graduate students at the University Park campus reported being the victim of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.

The Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey was conducted last fall with a sample of 9,427 students at 23 campuses, completed anonymosuly and voluntarily. Results for each campus can be viewed here.

Part of 18 recommendations made by a university sexual assault task force in 2015, the survey is designed to help Penn State staff and administrators better understand issues of sexual misconduct among students and make improvements in addressing those issues.

“The data gleaned from this important survey will guide our actions as we work in partnership with students to educate them about these issues and encourage improved outcomes for all," said Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims. It is pleasing that a clear majority of our students already recognizes that the University takes reports of sexual misconduct seriously. We now must build on that confidence by pursuing programs and services that answer student needs, and we must call upon students to join us in these efforts. In partnership with them, the University community is certain to find the improvements it seeks.”

Penn State President Eric Barron said he is encouraged by how students view the university's handling of sexual assault and harassment reports. Seventy-six percent of undergraduates and 75.3 percent of graduate students said they believed Penn State would take a report seriously. Meanwhile, 67.8 percent of undergrads and 63 percent of graduate students said they believed the university would handle it fairly.

“To me, this finding in particular points to the many steps that we have taken and continue to take are having a positive effect,” Barron said. “While there are some findings that are troubling within the survey, there is reason to believe we can truly impact this issue on our campuses.”

Male students believed the university would handle sexual misconduct matters seriously and fairly at a slightly higher rate than female students. Among LGBTQ students at University Park, however, views were a bit less optimistic. For undegrads, 59.4 percent of LGBTQ respondents believed Penn State would take a report seriously and 51 percent believed it would be handled fairly. Just under 40 percent of LGBTQ students believed  the university would take action to address the factors that may have led to sexual misconduct, compared to 62.3 percent overall. Those rates of confidence for LGBTQ students are still much higher than those found in a national climate survey.

For University Park undergrads, 27.5 percent of women, 6.2 percent of men and 25.7 percent of LGBTQ participants said they had been the victim of a sexual assault or attempted assault. Among graduate students, those numbers were 10.4 percent for women, 2.7 percent for men and 13 percent for LGBTQ individuals.

The majority of respondents (77.5 percent for undergrads and 59.7 percent for graduate students) who reported having been a victim said they had used alcohol or drugs prior to the assault. The majority also said the perpetrator had used drugs or alcohol just prior to the incident (72.8 percent undergrad and 58 percent graduate).

Women and LGBTQ students generally reported higher rates of bystander intervention action than men. Among reasons for not acting to intervene when sexual misconduct was occurring, the majority of students said either they didn't notice because they were intoxicated or they didn't know it was concerning enough to intervene. Other major reasons included concern for their own safety, being unsure of how to intervene and not knowing the person well.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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