Climate survey

Results of UD's first-ever sexual misconduct survey reported


8:24 a.m., Feb. 16, 2016--Approximately 2,500 University of Delaware undergraduate students completed the first-ever campus climate survey conducted last spring to examine the extent of sexual misconduct on campus, students’ attitudes about how the University deals with sexual assault and their knowledge of the resources available.

As part of its ongoing commitment to addressing the issue of sexual misconduct, the University invited all 18,222 degree-seeking Delaware undergraduate students to participate in the survey. Twenty-two percent responded and 14 percent completed the survey. (See Table 1).

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The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault recommended the climate survey as a useful tool for colleges and universities, part of a wider federal effort to raise awareness of sexual violence on American campuses.

“This survey was conducted to give us important insights into a problem affecting students at UD and campuses around the country,” said Susan Groff, Title IX coordinator and director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion. “The data will be invaluable as we further our efforts to make our campus a safe and welcoming environment.”

Student experiences

The first set of survey questions asked students whether they had experienced one or more of five incidents while a student at UD: stalking, an abusive relationship, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape. Nearly one third of females (30.6 percent) and one tenth of males (9.5 percent) who completed the survey said they had experienced one or more incidents.  

Among female respondents the most common incident was sexual harassment, reported by 348 women (21 percent). Among male respondents, the most common experience was stalking, being followed or receiving unwanted messages, texts or emails, reported by 30 men (4.5 percent). The survey also found that 176 women (9.5 percent) and 12 men (1.8 percent) experienced sexual assault; and 73 women (4 percent) and 6 men (0.9 percent) experienced rape. (See Figure 1).

“Any degree of unwanted sexual activity is extremely troubling and we are taking these findings very seriously,” said Nancy Targett, acting president of the University. “The University of Delaware is deeply committed to maintaining a safe campus for everyone, and this information underscores the importance of stronger education, prevention and awareness.”

The relatively low response to the survey means the findings are not considered to be a valid measure of rates of sexual misconduct across the entire undergraduate population. 

“While participation was low, the survey results are consistent with what other colleges and universities have found in similar surveys. Thus the data will serve as a baseline to track progress going forward,” said John Sawyer, associate provost for institutional research and effectiveness, the office that conducted the survey analysis.  

A second set of questions asked students about specific acts of unwanted sexual activity while attending UD: fondled or kissed, clothing removed, attempted penetration, sexual penetration, attempted oral sex, and oral sex. Overall, based on responses to this second set of questions, 683 female respondents (48.5 percent) and 80 male respondents (19 percent) experienced one or more incidents of unwanted sexual contact. (See Figure 2).

These responses indicate that some students who identified experiences of specific unwanted sexual contact in the second set of questions were hesitant to classify or label the incident as assault or rape. 

“This is exactly why we need to ask students about specific behaviors and experiences,” said Ruth Fleury-Steiner, associate professor of human development and family studies and member of the UD Faculty Senate Commission on Sexual Harassment and Assault. “These findings are consistent with years of research that suggests we still think of sexual assault as only attacks by strangers in dark alleys. We need to do more to both prevent sexual assault at UD and to help everyone understand just how widespread and damaging sexual assault really is.” 

Perceptions of University response

Students were asked a series of questions about general perceptions of how the University administration handles sexual assault and sexual misconduct. 

Nearly half of respondents (45.4 percent) agree that “sexual assault is a big problem on campus.” And relatively few survey respondents (12.6 percent) agree that “the UD administration already does enough to prevent sexual assault from happening.” Over three quarters of respondents (76.7 percent) agree that “the UD administration should take stronger action when sexual assault occurs.”

More than half (57.6 percent) of the students who responded to the survey thought it likely or very likely that UD would support the person making the report of sexual assault. Two-thirds (68.6 percent) of respondents said they believed it was likely or very likely that UD would maintain the privacy of the person making the report. 

At the same time, the survey findings suggest a lot of uncertainty among students with regard to how the University responds to reports of sexual assault and the resources that are available for them.

Just over a third of survey respondents (36.2 percent) reported they knew where to seek help for sexual harassment incidents.

More than half (51.7 percent) of respondents were uncertain whether UD would forward the report to the police, even if the victim did not want them to. (As required by law, the University reports incidents of sexual assault, dating/domestic violence and stalking to the Clery compliance officer within UD’s police department, but does not include the victim’s name or other identifying information. Victims are informed of their right to report an incident to law enforcement.)

While nearly all victims told a friend, classmate, or peer, just 4.9 percent formally reported the incident to the University. And 90 percent of survey respondents who had been victimized said they did not use any University resources.

From July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015, the Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) received a total of 204 formal reports from various members of the University community alleging sexual offenses such as sex discrimination, stalking, sexual harassment, domestic violence, dating violence and sexual assault. Full data is available in the OEI annual report.

Effective July 1, 2015, the University implemented a new policy and process, bringing clarity to how UD will respond to reports of sexual misconduct and making the investigative process less intimidating for students.  

“We want students to feel comfortable reporting their experiences, and confident knowing that if they report an incident it will be thoroughly and fairly investigated through resolution,” said Groff. “We have a number of resources and trained staff available to support victims throughout the process.”  

Strengthening UD efforts

Since the survey was conducted, OEI and Student Wellness and Health Promotion have put considerable resources toward sexual misconduct education and awareness:

  • During fall 2015, the University administered an online training to educate and bring awareness to employees about UD policies and federal and state laws pertaining to sexual misconduct. 
  • The University is strengthening student programming, including: an online training on sexual misconduct; new learning outcomes for new-student orientation; and a new bystander intervention program.
  • The Sexual Assault Prevention and Education (SAPE) committee, a grassroots effort, was bolstered as a standing committee. SAPE provides year-round gender-based violence prevention and awareness programs.
  • UD has increased the number of staff devoted to handling sexual misconduct and assembled a committee structure to ensure all areas of campus are focused on prevention and response.  
  • OEI regularly provides information sessions for the campus community. The office has conducted more than 100 workshops over the last year, and led over 50 training sessions for faculty, students and staff this past fall. (See below for upcoming sessions.)

Other key survey findings

  • Incidents reported by survey respondents occurred in a range of settings, with 51 percent in off-campus student apartments or houses, 30 percent in fraternity or sorority houses, 26 percent in UD residence halls, and 11 percent elsewhere on UD’s campus.  
  • Over three-quarters of students who responded to the survey and said they were victimized reported that one or more of the perpetrators were UD students. 
  • Nearly all women surveyed (96.3 percent) and most men (90.1 percent) reported they always or usually made sure that a friend was not left stranded. 
  • About three-quarters of women and men who completed the survey said they always or usually talked to the friends of a drunk person to make sure he/she wasn’t left behind. 
  • A smaller proportion of women (63.4 percent) and men (62 percent) tried to intervene when someone was about to take advantage of a drunk person.  

About the survey

The survey was developed collaboratively by the data collection subcommittee of the Faculty Senate Commission on Sexual Harassment and Assault, Institutional Research and Effectiveness and the Office of Equity and Inclusion. 

Institutional Research and Effectiveness analyzed and compiled a report of the findings with input and direction from the Faculty Senate subcommittee.   

Read the executive summary.

Read the full report.

Upcoming sexual misconduct information sessions

Feb. 24 – 3:30 to 5 p.m., Perkins Ewing room

March 10 – 9 to 10:30 a.m., Perkins Ewing room

March 22 – 3:30 to 5 p.m., Perkins Rodney room

April 4 – 3:30 to 5 p.m., Perkins Ewing room

April 22 – 9 to 10:30 a.m., Perkins Gallery room

Students can sign up for a session by emailing Full-time staff and faculty must register through ConnectingU

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