There is no shortage of horrifying statistics in the latest report on sexual assault at Penn, released Monday as part of a national survey across 27 universities.
Almost a third of Penn female undergraduates will be sexually assaulted before they graduate, substantially higher than the national average determined by a White House task force. Only 31.4 percent of students said it was “very or extremely likely” that campus officials would address factors that may have led to the sexual assault in the first place. And only 36 percent of students think it’s “very or extremely likely” that Penn would take action against an offender.But these statistics fail to draw attention to an equally troubling fact about sexual assault at Penn: that non-heterosexual men and women, as well as freshman women, are even more at-risk than women at large.
About 37 percent of non-heterosexual women report being sexually assaulted during their time at Penn, compared to 26 percent of heterosexual women. The difference for men is also stark: 14.4 to 4 percent. These numbers are deeply disturbing — as is the fact that there are no targeted measures addressing (or even acknowledging) this issue.
The situation is similarly dire for freshman women, about 23 percent of whom report being sexually assaulted over the course of their first year at Penn. That’s 7 percentage points higher than the next-highest group (sophomores, at 15 percent).
Penn needs to ensure that education about sexual assault starts from the very beginning — education that extends beyond a five-minute video and an NSO presentation that most people don’t even pay attention to. There should be targeted education for at-risk groups, like non-heterosexual men and women. This report has brought up countless facts that need to be highlighted during NSO that are simply being overlooked: the majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows; that chances are, someone in your freshman year hall was sexually assaulted that year; that by the time you graduate, almost a third of your female friends will have been sexual assaulted.
Finally, Penn needs to examine elements of its social scene that may be contributing to the alarmingly high rates of sexual assault on campus. Forty-seven percent of on-campus sexual assaults happened in a fraternity or sorority. This means that nearly half of assaults occur in the residences of a relatively small number of students — and one of the staples of Penn’s social scene, especially freshman and other underclassmen who aren’t old enough to get into bars.
When President Amy Gutmann emailed the results of the survey to the entire Penn community she was absolutely correct in calling them “deeply troubling.” Now it’s time for Penn to do something about it.
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