TXEXplainer: The AAU Campus Sexual Assault Survey


Campus sexual assault has been steadily making headlines for the past two years—and each new scandal, from Columbia to Hobart and Smith to the University of North Carolina, brings new confusion and disagreement over what colleges and communities should be doing to combat the issue. One big part of the problem: Statistics are hard to come by and vary wildly.

In the latest attempt to bring clarity to a muddied national conversation, the Association of American Universities released findings on Monday from one of the biggest and most comprehensive surveys on campus sexual assault to date. UT-Austin and 26 other schools participated.

What makes this survey different?

Colleges have been conducting their own surveys on sexual assault for years, each with a distinct methodology, range of questions, and often too-small sample sizes. That made it tricky to compare information across campuses. “The AAU study is one of the first to have both a relatively large number of campuses and a large sample of students at each,” researcher Bonnie Fisher said. More than 150,000 students at 27 colleges completed the online survey.

How many UT-Austin students are victims of sexual assault?

The survey found that among UT’s undergraduate population, 18.5 percent of women and 5 percent of men have been victims of sexual assault or misconduct during their time on campus. These numbers are slightly lower than the national average of 23.1 percent of women and 5.4 percent of men.

What exactly does “sexual assault or misconduct” mean?

People generally think of rape when they think about campus sexual assault, but this survey went beyond that. The researchers looked at two types of victimization: Nonconsensual sexual contact involving penetration and touching, as well as sexual harassment, stalking, and intimate partner violence.

What are the other UT numbers I should know?

  • 61.9 percent of students said they thought it was likely or extremely likely that a report of sexual assault would be taken seriously at UT.
  • 47.7 percent of all students nationwide and 45.3 percent at UT said they have been victims of sexual harassment.
  • 17 percent of students said that sexual assault and misconduct is very or extremely problematic at UT.
  • 21.3 percent of students said they are very or extremely knowledgeable about how the university defines sexual assault and sexual misconduct.
  • 7.4 percent said they know what happens after a student makes a report of sexual assault or misconduct.
  • Women, minorities, and LGBT students were all more likely to be victims at UT, as is consistent with national results.

How are UT administrators responding?

“One sexual assault is too many,” UT president Greg Fenves said in a statement. “It is essential that we foster a campus that does not tolerate sexual assaults while strongly encouraging victims to come forward and report incidents. This survey is another positive step in our efforts to create a safer campus for all of our students.”

LaToya Hill, UT’s Title IX coordinator and associate vice president, echoed that message and added that UT administrators will consider the survey results when developing assault-prevention programs. “The information we received in the survey definitely provides us with better information on where we need to improve,” Hill said.

Where can I read the report in full?

Read the national report for all 27 universities surveyed here, and read the UT-Austin-specific report here.

Photo by Anna Donlan


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