More than a quarter of undergraduate women at the University of Missouri say they have experienced sexual contact without their consent, according to a new Association of American Universities survey.
The information is included in “The 2019 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct.” A previous survey was released in 2015.
An even higher percentage of transgender and non-binary students in the survey — 29.4 percent — reported being victims of sexual assault. Undergraduate men reported one of the lowest rates of unwanted sexual contact on campus, 7.5 percent.
Even one sexual assault is too many, said Andy Hayes, assistant vice chancellor for Civil Rights and Title IX, in a news conference last week to talk about the results.
“There is still lots of room for improvement,” Hayes said.
The survey item is described in the report as “non-consensual sexual contact involving physical force or inability to consent since entering the school.”
The 26.6 percent rate of sexual assault for undergraduate women in the survey is down slightly from 27.2 percent in the 2015 survey, which the survey called not statistically significant. MU spokesman Christian Basi said the student response rate was higher for the new survey and the university’s enrollment is lower than in 2015.
The AAU, an organization comprised of the top research universities in the United States and Canada, conducted the survey on 32 of its 62 member campuses, plus one non-member campus, beginning in November 2018. The reports were released Tuesday morning for all 33 campuses.
There were 5,610 responses to the 2019 survey, for a response rate of 20.4 percent. In 2015, 4,750 students responded, a 15.7 percent response rate. The 20.4 percent response rate also was higher than the 16.5 percent average for public AAU schools.
The survey results about transgender students didn’t surprise her, she said. It tracks with the national data.
“That particular group of students are not inclined to report and they are targeted more,” Hayes said.
She schedules meetings with transgender student groups to maintain an open dialogue with them. The incidence of sexual assault of transgender students for other AAU schools was 40.2 percent.
Of MU students in the survey, 92 percent said they were aware of specific resources and services the university provides for victims of sexual assault and other misconduct MU students in the survey also were more aware of the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX – 71.9 percent in 2019 compared with 58.1 percent in 2015.
Among new students, 93.9 percent completed training and information sessions on preventing sexual assault, while the AAU average was 89 percent.
The so-called “red zone” of August, September and October is when most campus sexual assaults occur, Hayes said.
“We’re really being intentional about those efforts” to provide training, she said. “We’re talking to people about consent.”
Hayes said every report her office receives is reviewed.
“It’s thoroughly investigated,” Hayes said. “Some students don’t want a hearing.”
When there’s no hearing, she decides the Title IX cases.
Most of the situations described in the survey also are crimes. Hayes said some students don’t want to involve police. The burden of proof for a crime is beyond a reasonable doubt, whereas for a Title IX case it is a preponderance of the evidence.
In MU’s 2019 Annual Fire Safety and Security Report, the University of Missouri Police Department reported that the number of reported rapes dropped to 10 in 2018, from 17 in 2017.
For 29.9 percent of incidents involving women and 9.3 percent involving men, victims made contact with a program or resource as a result of sexual contact involving physical force or inability to consent. For women who didn’t report, 48.1 percent said they could handle it themselves and 47.2 percent said it wasn’t serious enough. Others said they were embarrassed or ashamed.
The data from AAU helps interpret MU’s annual report, Hayes said.
COLUMBIA DAILY TRIBUNE
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