Almost a third of Penn’s female undergraduates say they’ve been sexually assaulted.
On Monday, Penn released from a sexual assault climate survey conducted last semester by the American Association of Universities, which Penn President Amy Gutmann chairs.
The data was also released in .
Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price called the results “deeply troubling” in an email to all Penn students sent on Monday morning, promising to arrange meetings with student leaders throughout campus to discuss what steps to take.
“The survey results confirm our deepest concerns, and we write to you now to say that we are therefore redoubling our efforts,” the email said. “We must not and we will not rest until we effectively tackle this problem as a campus community.”
By senior year, almost a third of Penn undergraduate women who responded to the survey reported experiencing nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching by force or incapacitation. The survey also found that 12 percent of female undergraduates at Penn had experienced nonconsensual penetration involving force or incapacitation since their arrival, and 20.8 percent had experienced sexual touching.
The survey, which was administered last April by the independent research firm Westat, was designed to measure students’ experience with sexual violence and misconduct on campus. More than 150,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students at 27 universities, including every Ivy except Princeton, participated in the research. At Penn, the response rate among undergraduate and graduate students was 26.9 percent — 6,402 out of a total of 23,789 students.
The survey categorized students as male, female or TGQN (transgender, genderqueer or non-conforming, questioning, not listed).
5.5 percent of males were victims of nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching since arriving at Penn. The rate of victimization among undergraduate females was five times higher than that of undergraduate males.
For female undergraduates, the highest rates of sexual assault were for freshmen (22.8 percent), with a steady decline over sophomore (15.3 percent), junior (12.7 percent) and senior (10.7 percent) years.
The survey also measured rates of reporting sexual violence among students. For females, 26.7 percent reported penetration involving physical force, and 13.8 percent reported penetration involving incapacitation. Roughly 7 percent reported sexual touching by incapacitation or force.
Among female undergraduates across institutions, the incidence of sexual misconduct due to physical force, threats of physical force or incapacitation was 23.1 percent, including 10.8 percent who experienced penetration.
Among total respondents across the 27 institutions, 11.7 percent of overall student respondents reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force, threats of physical force or incapacitation since they enrolled at their university.
Across institutions, the most common reason why respondents said they did not report incidents of sexual assault or misconduct was that they did not believe it was serious enough. Students also cited embarrassment, shame, fear of negative social consequences and beliefs that nothing would be done as reasons for not reporting.
The study found that rates of sexual misconduct involving coercion — nonconsensual contact involving non-physical threats or promise of rewards — were extremely low, at less than 1 percent. Rates of nonconsensual contact in which affirmative consent was not explicitly provided were slightly higher, at 5.7 percent. A significantly higher percentage of females and TGQN students than males reported this kind of behavior.
Among other forms of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment was reported by 47.8 percent of students, interpersonal violence was reported by 7.1 percent and stalking was reported by 3.1 percent.
The survey also measured students’ attitude towards the way their universities handle sexual violence. 52 percent of Penn students believed that a victim reporting a crime would be supported by the University, with rates of confidence lower among women and TGQN students. 35.6 percent of students felt that action would take place after a crime had been reported — again, rates of confidence were lower among women and TGQN students.
Aggregate results of the survey from 27 total universities indicated that a national rate of 11.7 percent of students reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force, threats of physical force or incapacitation. The rate was 23.1 percent among female students, including 10.8 percent who reported penetration, and 5.4 percent among male students.
Rates of reporting sexual crimes varied between 5 percent and 28 percent across institutions that administered, and 58.1 percent believed that reports would be taken seriously by campus officials.
“We have long held that any harassment or assault on our campuses is absolutely unacceptable,” Gutmann and Price said in the email. “The climate survey we undertook confirms just how great a problem we confront. We will do everything in our power to counteract this climate, and we call upon all members of our community to do their parts as well.”
Clarification: A previous version of this article stated that 26.9 percent of undergraduates and graduates responded to the survey — a total of 23,789 students. This has been updated to clarify that only 6,402 students responded out of the total of 23,789 students.
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