Austin American Statesman– March 24, 2017
The University of Texas has released the results of a survey on sexual violence and misconduct in which 15 percent of undergraduate women said they had been raped since being enrolled.
The “Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments” report was sent to the UT community via email.
“This survey is a wake-up call to me, as it should be for every student, faculty member and staff member at UT Austin,” University President Gregory L. Fenves said in a statement to staff and students. “This survey reveals a problem in our university, as well as society, that has existed in the shadows for too long.”
The report also found that among undergraduate women at UT, 28 percent said they were the victims of unwanted sexual touching and 12 percent said they experienced an attempted rape since being enrolled.
According to the report, most students had never told anyone about the incidents they experienced before taking the survey and out of the ones who did share their incident, only 6 percent told someone from university services.
Fenves said he wants survivors to report such incidents and to know that their university cares about them. He said their experiences should be reported.
“No voice is too quiet to listen to,” Fenves said. “No story of abuse is too minor to ignore. No truth is too uncomfortable to face. We support you.”
Other key findings from the 96-page report show that 42 percent of students reported having experienced sexual harassment from their peers and 22 percent of students reported having experienced sexist gender harassment from faculty or staff.
The $1.7 million study, funded by the Board of Regents, began in May 2015 and received responses from 7,684 UT students out of a total of 45,000 invited to participate, producing a response rate of about 17.1 percent. This survey is part of a larger study that includes data on sexual harassment; stalking; dating and domestic violence; and unwanted sexual contact — across all 13 University of Texas System institutions.
The surveyed students answered a series of questions anonymously online. The three main areas surveyed were health and well-being; perceptions about the university’s response to addressing sexual harassment, stalking, dating and domestic violence, and unwanted sexual contact; and if they had personally experienced any of such violence since being at UT.
LaToya Smith, Title IX coordinator for the university, said that the numbers aren’t shocking to people who have been doing research and that the figures are comparable to other schools’ across the nation.
“We want to focus less on the numbers and more on the people behind the data,” Smith said. “We want to make sure students feel safe to report issues, have the mechanisms to report and various avenues of reporting.”
University officials said they are also working to address sexual harassment from instructors and staff and that this was the first time a UT report asked students questions regarding violence and misconduct coming from UT employees. The survey found that most perpetrators, about 81 percent, of faculty or staff sexual harassment were male.
Noël Busch-Armendariz, the survey’s principal investigator, said sexual assault is typically thought of as a private and personal issue, but it needs to be thought of as a social issue.
Christopher Brownson, director of UT’s counseling and mental health center, said the “one thing we are all proud of is the investment that our students have around this issue.”
“They are involved in initiatives and passionate about it — so much so that a coalition of student organizations was formed, the Interpersonal Violence Prevention Coalition, to communicate between different organizations,” he said. “Our students are quite the inspiration.”