One of the first surveys of its kind, performed by a nationally known UO psychology professor, appears to confirm a widely held belief that campus sexual assault is a hugely underestimated problem.
The survey of almost 1,000 UO students indicates that 35 percent of women have had at least one sexual encounter that occurred without their consent while at the university. The results are preliminary.
The report comes as the university works to address the problem of campus sexual assault, which has vaulted into public prominence following several high-profile incidents. Surveys of students, known as campus climate surveys, are being pursued across the country as a way of getting a clearer picture of what is widely regarded as a significantly underreported crime.
The new numbers come from the initial results of a survey conducted by UO psychology professor Jennifer Freyd and two graduate students. The partial results were presented to the Senate Task Force to Address Sexual Violence and Survivor Support on Tuesday, Sept. 30.
Freyd stressed that it will take months to fully analyze the data and provide a full context for the results. She said her team worked to get the early results available quickly to help the senate committee with its work.
“This is just a snapshot of our overall findings,” she said.
The task force is working in parallel with the President’s Review Panel, an external committee formed by the president’s office to gather information about sexual assault and the university’s responses to it. The review panel is expected to announce its findings later in October.
But the numbers from the Freyd survey seem to justify the heightened concern over sexual violence and misconduct among college students. Interim UO President Scott Coltrane, who was briefed on the survey’s results in advance of the meeting, commended Freyd and said he remains committed to addressing the problem.
“The data show us we have a lot of work to do,” he said. “One case is too many, and we need to do better.”
According to the survey, when students were asked about less violent incidents of sexual harassment, 57 percent of women and 37 percent of men reported they had been subjected to unwanted sexual comments or contact while students.
Members of the task force clearly were concerned at the numbers.
“I am just stunned,” said Ibrahim Gassama, a UO law professor.
The survey showed that 10 percent of women reported that they had been raped while students. In 73 percent of the sexual assaults the victim knew the perpetrator and 87 percent of perpetrators were male.
Also, 58 percent of the incidents took place at a private residence, 17 percent in a residence hall or other university property and 10 percent at a fraternity. And in 90 percent of cases the victim did not report nonconsensual sexual incidents, including 86 percent of those who reported being raped.
Slides from the preliminary report can be viewed here. The online survey was conducted in late August and early September and was completed by 982 students.
The $20,000 study was funded through the UO Center for the Study of Women in Society and private donors. Most of that went to providing $20 Amazon gift cards to students who completed the survey.
Coltrane said the survey will be a valuable tool for the university.
“We are lucky to have Jennifer Freyd and her students,” he said. “They are doing some of the best work in the nation, and we want to utilize it to help us plan.”
̶—by Greg Bolt, Public Affairs Communications