Results from the University of Utah’s third sexual assault climate survey show that while students’ knowledge of university policies and resources related to sexual assault has increased, perceptions of overall safety and university response to reports of sexual assault or misconduct have declined since the 2018 survey. The findings are available here.
The U conducted its first survey on the topic in 2016. This year, the U administered the Association of American Universities survey, which allows benchmarking with Pac-12 peers. This is the same survey that was administered in 2018 but is different from the 2016 survey.
The anonymous, confidential questionnaire gathers information about experiences with interpersonal violence, including sexual assault, sexual misconduct, domestic violence, stalking, harassment and other forms of relationship violence. Information gathered from the survey helps shape services, programs and resources at the U.
The survey was sent to 29,315 degree-seeking students in January 2020. About 14%, or 4,089 students, submitted responses. Similar to the prior survey, more graduate students responded than undergraduates relative to their populations, and more women responded than men. Most respondents also report living off campus.
“We have made significant improvements to practices, policies and personnel that enhance safety on our campus, but we know it is going to take time to build trust and prove these changes are working,” said Lori McDonald, vice president of Student Affairs. “It is particularly insightful that while most rates of harassment, sexual assault and misconduct have declined, our students report low perceptions of overall safety and response. The safety of our students is our top priority and we will continue to communicate with students about all the increased and improved resources and support services available to them.”
Additional key findings from the 2020 survey include:
- Rates of harassment decreased for nearly all populations of students.
- Rates of sexual assault and misconduct have decreased for undergraduates as a whole from 2018, the largest decrease being for undergraduate females, which dropped 8 percentage points.
- Alcohol is involved in about half of all incidents of nonconsensual sexual contact.
- Most incidences of sexual assault are reported to have occurred off campus, in private residences.
- Nonconsensual sexual contact is mostly perpetrated by other students, followed in frequency by people unaffiliated with the U. The relationship with the victim is typically that of a friend, acquaintance or romantic partner.
- Only a small portion of students report incidents of sexual assault to university officials. The most common reasons for not doing so is a perception the incident was not serious enough to report or a belief nothing would be done.
“It is encouraging to see awareness of university resources increase, but it’s clear we have a way to go in encouraging students experiencing sexual assault to report,” said Sherrie Hayashi, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (OEO/AA) and Title IX coordinator. “It’s not enough to know we’re here. We want students to know we are going to help them if they come to us.”
Updated actions related to sexual assault and misconduct
- A special assistant to the president for violence prevention and education was named in 2019 and, with the director of Center for Student Wellness, launched an Interpersonal Violence Prevention and Education Collective that as of May 2020 has over 80 members.
- The orientation session for new and transferring undergraduate students on the topic of community standards was updated to incorporate active learning through scenarios and discussion. Specific areas of focus included bystander intervention, consent, sexual misconduct and safety.
- A Victim-Survivor Advocacy intern program was developed in partnership with the College of Social Work. Two interns were added, providing an additional 900 hours of advocacy support for the year.
- More staff have been added, including an additional consultant, a training specialist and an intake coordinator in OEO/AA; an additional student support case manager within the Office of the Dean of Students; an additional health educator, a graduate assistant and a new assistant director in the Center for Student Wellness; and a victim-survivor advocate in the university police department. The university also hired a chief safety officer.
- The university partnered with the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition to develop training and procedures based on the Lethality Assessment Protocol for use within the victim-survivor advocacy program and with housing and law enforcement staff.
- There continues to be an emphasis on increased training, emphasizing online delivery to reach the greatest number of participants with in-person training provided upon request.
See a full list of new actions and trainings here.
Morgan Aguilarcommunications specialist, University of Utah Communications