UVA Releases Results From 2019 Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct

Tree on the Lawn changing colors and dropping leaves. Colors are yellow, green, red, and orange

Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications

The University of Virginia today released the results of a comprehensive survey of student experiences and perceptions of sexual assault and other forms of sexual and gender-based harassment and misconduct, and the University’s resources and responses to incidents.

UVA participated as part of a national Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey that included surveys completed by 181,752 undergraduate, graduate and professional students at 33 higher education institutions. This is a follow-up to a 2015 AAU Campus Climate Survey, in which UVA was one of 27 higher education institutions to participate.

“The University of Virginia is committed to the safety of every member of our community,” Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jennifer “J.J.” Wagner Davis said. “The Campus Climate Survey allows us to hear directly from students about their views on the culture on Grounds and the University’s efforts to foster a safe and supportive environment.”

Results from the surveys provide the University critical information to assess students’ experiences, and inform decisions on how UVA can continue to improve its resources and practices for preventing sexual assault and misconduct, responding to incidents, and providing support.

“We’re encouraged by this year’s survey results, though we recognize that there is still much that can be done to support our students and increase awareness about the resources that are available,” Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer Patricia Lampkin said. “I’m grateful to those who participated in this important survey.”   

The 2019 AAU survey was administered by Westat, a leading social science research firm that also administered the 2015 AAU climate survey. This year’s survey was distributed to all degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate students between March 19 and April 16. UVA’s response rate was 30.4%, compared to 26.4% in 2015.

UVA’s full report can be found here, and, when applicable, comparisons of select data between the 2015 and 2019 AAU survey can be found here. The comparison visual also includes responses to a similar survey that UVA administered in 2017 on its own initiative outside the AAU cohort. AAU also released the aggregate report of the 2019 survey results today.

The data set is robust, and the University’s analysis is ongoing. However, preliminary results include that, for the 2018-19 academic year, the incidence of sexual assault by physical force, threats of physical force or incapacitation reported by female undergraduate students was 13.4% compared to 4.2% for male undergraduate students, and 3.4% for female graduate students compared to 0.7% for graduate male students. In the 2015 survey, 13.8% of female undergraduates, 3.2% of male undergraduates, 4.5% of female graduate students, and 0.8% of male graduate students reported these incidents. The foregoing results measure incidence in one year.

The incidence of sexual assault by physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation reported by female undergraduates since entering college was 25.5%, compared to 7.9% for male undergraduates, and 10% for female graduate students compared to 1.9% for male graduate students. In 2015, 23.8% of female undergraduates, 4.5% of male undergraduates, 12.3% of female graduate students, and 1.9% of male graduate students reported these incidents.

When asked how problematic students believe sexual assault or sexual misconduct is at the University, 27.4% reported that it is very much or extremely problematic, compared with 38.6% in 2015.

Other key results from UVA’s 2019 survey include:

  • 71.8% of students believe it is very or extremely likely that a report would be taken seriously by campus officials, compared with 58.8% in 2015.
  • 55.6% of students believe it is very or extremely likely that a fair investigation would occur, compared with 41.2% in 2015.
  • 47.3% 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, compared with 32.2% in 2015.

UVA’s 2019 survey also included questions designed to better understand how students communicate with and respond to peers about experiences they consider a form of sexual misconduct.

Two-thirds of students who experienced sexual harassment told at least one friend and reported that:

  • 85.7% of those friends listened to the person, comforted them, or reassured them.
  • 47.4% of those friends provided ongoing supports.
  • 34.2% of those friends shared their own experience.
  • 19.3% of those friends helped manage or limit ongoing interactions with the person who did this or mutual acquaintances.

“Our surveys show that students who have experienced sexual harassment or misconduct frequently confide in a roommate or friend, and it is encouraging that survivors overwhelmingly receive support in those circumstances,” Abby Palko, director of the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center, said. “This reinforces the importance of providing all members of the University community information about how they can better support survivors of sexual misconduct. That includes making all students aware of the resources and options that are available.”

“The 2019 Campus Climate Survey is one of many initiatives on Grounds contributing toward a University with a living, learning and work environment that is free from sexual and gender-based harassment and other forms of interpersonal violence, such as sexual assault, stalking and intimate partner violence,” Emily Babb, assistant vice president for Title IX compliance and Title IX coordinator, said.

Since 2015, these initiatives include:

  • All incoming first-year and transfer students complete mandatory training modules on sexual and gender-based violence prevention, including the University’s Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence (the Title IX Policy) and alcohol abuse. Further, every two years, all students are required to take additional training about sexual and gender-based violence prevention and response.
  • UVA’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights Title IX team added an additional investigator and now includes four full-time investigators responsible for responding to and investigating reports made under the University’s Title IX policy.
  • Increasing counseling and wellness services staff at the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women's Center to include two trauma counselors, a case manager who helps students access a wide variety of available resources, and a resident in counseling with special expertise and experience in the role of cultural, racial, gender and sexual identity in mental health. The staff now includes six full-time members.
  • Counseling and Psychological Services has nearly doubled its staff over the past five years and includes licensed social workers, counselors, psychologists, nurse practitioners and psychiatrists. CAPS offers a range of services, including psychotherapy, medication management, case management and 24-hour on-call crisis support.
  • For the 2019-20 academic year, the Office of Health Promotion expanded the University’s bystander education program and refocused and relaunched the Hoos Got Your Back bystander intervention program.
  • In the 2019-20 academic year, One in Four, an all-male identified sexual assault peer education group, and One Less, a female and gender nonconforming sexual assault and relationship violence education group, are merging to create Culture of Respect Educators, a student-run organization dedicated to sexual harm prevention in the Charlottesville community.
  • In addition, the Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights provides in-person training sessions to students, faculty and staff on a variety of topics concerning sexual and gender-based violence and other forms of discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

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