How and where to report
Based on data from both surveys, it is clear the majority of students remain unsure about where to report a claim of sexual misconduct. The safeu.utah.edu website is a good place to start and outlines various reporting options and support services.
Any U employee who is aware of a claim of sexual misconduct is required by university policy to report it to the U’s Title IX coordinator. This office will determine whether the incident violates federal laws or university policies before conducting a neutral investigation. Meanwhile, it works to provide individuals with support and resources regardless of the investigation outcome.
Individuals may also choose to report to law enforcement if they are interested in pursuing criminal charges.
There are also a variety of resources on campus where individuals may report confidentially. These include the Counseling Center, the Victim-Survivor Advocates, counselors in the Women’s Resource Center and the hospital chaplain.
The U offers several trainings around topics including sexual violence, mental health and wellness, bystander intervention strategies, anti-discrimination and more. Click here to learn more.
Understanding sexual misconduct
The AAU survey focused on nonconsensual sexual contact involving both sexual penetration and sexual touching or kissing. Survey respondents were asked whether one or more of these contacts occurred as a result of four tactics:
- Physical force or threat of physical force
- Being incapacitated because of drugs, alcohol or being unconscious, asleep or passed out
- Coercive threats of non-physical harm or promised rewards
- Failure to obtain affirmative consent
Tactic 1 and 2 generally meet Utah’s legal definitions of rape (penetration) and sexual battery (sexual touching or kissing). Nonconsensual sexual contact (penetration or touching) as a result of any of these tactics may be violations of university policy.
By Annalisa Purser, associate director, University of Utah Communications
Results from the University of Utah’s second sexual assault climate survey are now available. The U conducted its first survey on the topic in 2016. The most recent administration utilized the newly available American Association of Universities Survey, which will allow benchmarking with Pac-12 peers.
Because the new survey instrument used new questions, the ability to compare results to 2016’s benchmark data is limited. However, some questions from the inaugural survey remained the same, providing insights into changes on the U campus.
Results confirmed that sexual assault remains a problem and indicated that more people report experiencing sexual misconduct compared to the number of officially reported incidents. The survey also showed an increase in students’ actions related to sexual assault awareness and prevention while at the University of Utah compared to 2016.
For example, more students reported seeing posters about sexual assault, discussing the topic with friends or family members, reading a report about sexual violence rates at the U, attending events or programs about bystander interventions and visiting a U website with information about sexual assault, among other things. Nonetheless, more than half of students were not aware of university support resources specifically related to sexual assault response.
“We have worked diligently to raise awareness about this important issue and about the resources available on campus,” said U Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Lori McDonald. “It is clear that continued education about safety, alcohol use and how to support victims is critical, and we remain committed to these efforts.”
Additional key findings from the 2018 survey include:
- Undergraduates experience more harm overall than graduate students, with rates highest for females.
- Harassment was reported most frequently, followed by sexual assault and sexual misconduct.
- Nonconsensual sexual contact involved alcohol in more than half of all incidents.
- Mental and emotional impacts of sexual assault are reported more frequently than physical impacts.
- Harm is mostly perpetrated by other students, especially friends or acquaintances.
- Most issues of sexual assault are reported to have occurred off campus, in private residences.
- Very few report incidents of sexual assault to university officials, stating the most common reason for not doing so is a consideration that it was not serious enough to report. When respondents report telling someone, it is most frequently a close friend or roommate.
The survey was distributed to University of Utah students in spring 2018 and had a response rate of 12 percent. Demographic responses were compared to official data about the student body to gauge representativeness of responses. While representation was fairly similar to population data, more graduate students responded to the survey, as well as students in the Colleges of Engineering and Science. Compared to official data, more women and fewer men completed the survey.
“We have an ethical and a legal responsibility to ensure students have equal opportunities and access to education,” said Sherrie Hayashi, director of the U’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action and Title IX coordinator. “These findings help us better understand how students are impacted and how we can better support them.”
The OEO/AA/Title IX is designed to be a neutral resource responsible for investigating all claims of discrimination—sexual assault being the most egregious form of discrimination. It also provides complainants with information about options for reporting to police; connects people with other offices and resources that can provide personalized support; and has the ability to put into place protective measures, such as no-contact directives (which are different from legal no-contact orders), academic and housing adjustments and safety plans.
This office, along with many others across campus, work to ensure students can enjoy a safe and productive educational experience. To facilitate this, the university has invested in a variety of improvements, including:
- A new case management system for OEO/AA/Title IX in 2018 to improve its ability to track and respond to claims in a timely manner.
- Launched a new website, safeu.utah.edu, in fall 2017 to provide information about campus safety and reporting in one streamlined location.
- Hired an additional victim-survivor advocate in the Center for Student Wellness and three new positions for OEO/AA/Title IX.
- Increased the number of presentations to student and staff groups on sexual misconduct awareness and response.
- Developed materials to more clearly describe university policies and procedures, including a brochure, comprehensive booklet, a tear-off card for mandatory reporters and a visual flow chart of the adjudication process.
- The orientation session for new undergraduate students on the topic of community standards was adjusted to place a greater focus on bystander intervention and providing examples of sexual misconduct, and it includes a presence by campus police.
- An online course on sexual assault prevention was distributed to all incoming students—undergraduate and graduate—beginning in fall 2017.
- Implemented a training on discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct prevention training for all new employee hires.
- The U added April Sexual Assault Awareness Month to regular programming starting in 2016 and October Domestic Violence Awareness Month in 2018 and increased outreach education to students on healthy relationships, communication skills and bystander intervention training.