The results are in from what University of Texas officials called “the nation’s most comprehensive study on sexual assaults ever conducted in higher education”–and they’re horrifying. In a survey of 28,000 students at 13 University of Texas institutions, 15% of all undergraduate female students at UT Austin, 9% at UT Dallas and UT San Antonio, and 10% across all UT schools reported being raped.
Rape, in the words of the survey, was defined as “having oral sex with someone, making someone perform oral sex, or penetrating someone’s vagina or anus with penis, fingers or other objects without their consent, by use of verbal pressure, taking advantage of them when they’re incapacitated, threatening to harm or using force.”
These assaults also weren’t reported. At UT Austin, 68% of students who experienced “interpersonal violence” didn’t tell anyone about it, and only 6% told a member of university staff.
More than half of the perpetrators were fellow students, and 44% of the victims had a “close relationship” with their attacker.
“The results of this survey of our students are of tremendous concern to me,” wrote Gregory L. Fenves, UT Austin’s President, “and I know these findings are deeply troubling to every member of our community. This survey reveals a problem in our university, as well as society, that has existed in the shadows for too long…This survey is a wake-up call to me, as it should be for every student, faculty member and staff member at UT Austin.”
However, as Noël Busch-Armendariz, who headed up the survey, said, “There is nothing surprising in these prevalence rates. We have to be talking about the solutions.”
Fenves’ letter did emphasize the university’s support for victims and pointed to existing university resources: “I want survivors to report and know that their university cares about them — their experiences must be reported. If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault or misconduct, please contact our Title IX Office immediately. No voice is too quiet to listen to. No story of abuse is too minor to ignore. No truth is too uncomfortable to face. We support you.”
More details on the survey’s methodology and results can be found at the Dallas Morning News.
It is unclear what steps the University of Texas system will take to address these issues. Hopefully student advocates and alumni pressure can work to ensure that they take concrete steps to make their campus a safer place.
However, UT is hardly unique. These statistics are, as Busch-Armendariz noted, “in line with national averages.” A national problem is going to require a national solution.
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