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Credit: Katie Zhao

According to the largest survey on sexual violence at college campuses ever administered, Penn falls short of its peers in educating its students about sexual assault and fostering an atmosphere of safety.

The American Association of Universities’ Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, whose results were released on Sept. 21, was conducted at 28 schools, and every Ivy League university except Princeton participated.

Compared to those other schools, Penn students were less familiar with the University’s sexual violence policies. Among all institutions, 24 percent of respondents were very or extremely likely to understand their school’s definition of sexual assault. At Penn, the rate was only 10.7 percent, the lowest among the Ivy League schools that released comprehensive results — Harvard, Yale, Brown, Penn and Dartmouth.

Penn respondents were comparatively uninformed about where to make reports of sexual violence or misconduct — students were very or extremely knowledgeable at a rate of 12.6 percent, compared to 25.8 percent overall. In this category, Penn’s rate was also the lowest of the Ivies that released comprehensive results.

The results also indicate that Penn students are relatively pessimistic about the University’s ability to effectively deal with complaints of sexual violence.

Students at Penn were less likely than average to believe that a victim of sexual violence would be supported by fellow students in making a report, that campus officials would take the report seriously or that the safety of the victim would be protected.

Compared to the overall results, Penn students were also less confident that campus officials would conduct a fair investigation, take action against the offender or address factors that may have led to the incident.

Penn students were much less likely than average to intervene if they suspected a friend had been assaulted, if they witnessed a drunk person heading for a sexual encounter or if they witnessed someone acting in a sexually violent manner.

For the most part, rates of actual sexual violence were higher at Penn than among all 28 schools that participated in the survey. The rate of Penn undergraduate women who reported nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching since entering college was 27 percent, compared to a national rate of 23 percent.

Of the seven Ivies that participated, only Yale and Dartmouth had higher rates of nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching.

Penn freshmen also reported a higher rate of sexual violence than the average rate, at 22.8 percent versus 16.9 percent overall. Results were similar for the other three undergraduate years.

The percentage of Penn students who said they were victims of harassment, interpersonal violence or stalking was similar to national rates.

Despite the daunting numbers, only 14.1 percent of Penn students believe that sexual assault is a problem on campus, compared to a national rate of 20.2 percent and higher rates at the other Ivy League schools.

When the survey results were released, Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price called Penn’s statistics “deeply troubling” in an email sent to all Penn students and promised to arrange meetings with student leaders across campus to discuss how best to tackle the problem.

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