AAU, U.Va. Release Survey Results on Students’ Perceptions of Campus Sexual Assault and Misconduct

September 21, 2015

The University of Virginia today released the results of a comprehensive survey gauging the climate and culture around sexual assault and misconduct at the University.

The University was one of 27 higher education institutions to voluntarily participate in the Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. AAU released the aggregate results of its survey earlier today.

The primary goals of the AAU survey were to estimate the prevalence of different forms of nonconsensual sexual contact, harassment, intimate partner violence and stalking; to better understand the attitudes and experiences of students with respect to sexual assault and sexual misconduct; and to gauge students’ awareness of available resources in response to such incidents.

The data from the individual institutional surveys will help university administrators formulate additional policies and practices intended to reduce sexual assault and sexual misconduct on campus in their efforts to better promote the safety and well-being of students. This information, is also designed to help institutions improve how they respond to reports of sexual assault and sexual misconduct.

“The survey results provide an important baseline of information that will enable us to measure and track our efforts as we continue to enhance the safety of our community while promoting a culture of respect at the University,” U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan said.

“We work diligently to provide a safe learning and living environment for every member of our community. We have implemented many new initiatives and expanded important resources to enhance the safety of our community. Meaningful change requires sustained effort, so we must continue to strive to improve. I am grateful to the many students who committed their time to complete the survey.”

Westat, a leading social science research firm, conducted the AAU survey. A survey design team with representatives from many leading universities and not-for-profit organizations helped develop the survey.

To view the AAU aggregate results and analysis, click here.

The survey was distributed to all U.Va. undergraduate and graduate students between April 1 and April 29, during a period of heightened scrutiny in the wake of the now-discredited and retracted Rolling Stone magazine article detailing an alleged sexual assault at the University.

U.Va.’s response rate was 26.4 percent, which is higher than the AAU survey’s overall response rate of 19.3 percent.

AAU officials said the aggregate survey results are generally consistent with other campus surveys on sexual assault and sexual misconduct; however, its survey found significant variations in many of the measures across participating institutions.

All of the results provided in the AAU aggregate report and U.Va.’s institutional report are extrapolated to the respective total populations. Some of the key U.Va. findings based on survey responses to hypothetical situations include:

  • 56.3 percent of students believe that it is very or extremely likely that the victim would be supported by other students in making a report of sexual assault or misconduct to a University official; the AAU average is 56 percent.
  • 58.8 percent of students believe it is very or extremely likely that a report would be taken seriously by campus officials; the AAU average is 63.3 percent.
  • 55.2 percent of students said that if an occurrence of sexual assault occurs, it is very or extremely likely that the individual’s safety would be protected; the AAU average is 56.5 percent.
  • 41.9 percent of students believe it is very or extremely likely that a fair investigation would occur; the AAU average is 49.2 percent.
  • 28.2 percent of students said it is very or extremely likely that campus officials would take action against the offender; the AAU average is 44.6 percent.
  • 32.3 percent of students said it is very or extremely likely that campus officials would take action to address factors that may have led to the sexual assault or misconduct; the AAU average is 38.9 percent.

With regard to how problematic they perceive sexual assault or sexual misconduct is at the University, 38.6 percent of U.Va. students reported that it is very much or extremely problematic; the AAU average is 20.2 percent. Sexual assault and sexual misconduct encompass an array of behaviors that range from nonconsensual penetration to nonconsensual kissing, groping, grabbing, grinding or rubbing, and specific tactics including force or threat of force or incapacitation.

The AAU average for students who reported experiencing sexual assault or sexual misconduct by physical force, threats of physical force or incapacitation since they enrolled is 11.7 percent. Among female undergraduates, the AAU average is 24.2 percent; and is 5.5 percent for male undergraduates.

Overall, 12.9 percent of students at U.Va. reported experiencing sexual assault or sexual misconduct by physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation since they enrolled. The incidence of sexual assault and sexual misconduct by physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation reported by female undergraduate respondents is 23.8 percent; and 4.5 percent for male undergraduate respondents.

The U.Va. report may be found online here.

The deployment of the survey to the student body at U.Va. was one of many recent initiatives on Grounds, ranging from new procedures and personnel to student-run campaigns, intended to aid in making the University a safer place.

At the beginning of the academic year, students are required to complete new mandatory training modules for sexual violence prevention and alcohol abuse. The sexual violence training also informs students of the University’s updated Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence. This policy, informed by federal and state guidance and community input, became effective July 1.

Demonstrating the University’s commitment to open dialogue, more than 600 individual comments came in during the policy’s review period, including feedback from the President’s Ad Hoc Group on University Climate and Culture, which was established after the Rolling Stone article.

The University also expanded its resources by adding staff, including recruiting Catherine Spear as the new assistant vice president for equal opportunity programs, Kelley Hodge as the first full-time Title IX coordinator and Gabe Gates as the first assistant vice president for Clery Act compliance. U.Va. also added two full-time Title IX investigators, as well as new trauma counselors in both the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women's Center and the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services. In addition, the Office of the Dean of Students added a program coordinator for prevention in 2014, charged with identifying and implementing proven strategies to reduce sexual assault, gender-based violence and other forms of violence and hazing.

To make it simpler for community members to report an incident, the University modified the Just Report It online system to allow direct and anonymous reporting, and widely distributed an infographic to students as a reporting reference sheet. Just Report It allows members of the community to promptly report incidents of bias that include hazing and racial, sexual or gender-based violence.

Consistent with guidance from the federal government as well as recent Virginia legislation, which became effective July 1, U.Va. also implemented an evaluation panel to regularly review all reports for appropriate action to address issues of victim and community safety.

The University and its students have also collaborated to introduce many new initiatives designed to raise awareness in the community. These include:

  • Not on Our Grounds, a broad set of initiatives dedicated to ending sexual violence in the University community through a series of training programs, awareness campaigns, prevention efforts and reporting guidelines.
  • Hoos Got Your Back,” a bystander awareness campaign aimed specifically at combatting incidents of sexual violence during the first few weeks of a new academic year when students are most at risk for sexual assault. This initiative is a collaboration between students, faculty, staff, Corner merchants and other members of the University community. It encourages awareness of potentially dangerous situations and teaches them how to intervene safely and effectively.
  • Partnering with Green Dot, a national organization dedicated to reducing power-based personal violence through community mobilization.
  • In January, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and the University’s four student-led Greek leadership councils (the Inter-Fraternity Council, the Inter-Sorority Council, the Multicultural Greek Council and the National Pan-Hellenic Council) introduced addenda to the University’s Fraternal Organization agreement outlining measures to enhance the safety of their members and guests.
  • The Greek leadership councils have agreed to complete at least six educational programs each year – three of which will be focused on sexual violence prevention, alcohol and drug education, and hazing prevention. 
  • Student peer education groups One in Four and One Less are working together to establish a new program, “Dorm Norms.” It will take place at the beginning of the academic year and educate first-year students in their residence halls about how they can proactively prevent sexual violence.

Media Contact

Anthony P. de Bruyn

University Spokesperson Office of University Communications