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AAU Releases 2019 Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct

The following is a statement from the Association of American Universities about the release of the aggregate report from the 2019 AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct:

The Association of American Universities today released the aggregate report from the 2019 AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct, a follow-up to our landmark 2015 Campus Climate Survey and 2017 Campus Activities Survey. A total of 181,752 students from 33 colleges and universities, including 32 AAU member schools, completed the survey. The survey’s results will help AAU member institutions as well as other colleges and universities in their ongoing efforts to address the critical problem of sexual assault and other sexual misconduct.

“This is the largest college-based probability sample survey carried out on sexual assault and misconduct, and it is a testament to the commitment that America’s leading research universities have to fighting these problems and improving the campus climate around these issues,” said AAU President Mary Sue Coleman. “The results provide cause for both hope and continued concern. They reveal that, while students know more about university-sponsored resources for victims of sexual assault and misconduct, they still aren’t using these resources often enough. The results also show that rates of sexual assault and misconduct, measured by self-reports from students, have increased slightly since 2015, and that some groups of students – including women, non-cisgender students, and others – continue to be victimized at disproportionately high rates.”

Key findings include:

  1. The overall rate of non-consensual sexual contact by physical force or inability to consent since a respondent enrolled as a student at their school was 13 percent, with the rates for women and transgender, genderqueer, and non-binary (TGQN) students being significantly higher than for men.
  2. For the 21 schools that participated in both the 2015 and 2019 surveys, the rate of nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force or inability to consent increased from 2015 to 2019 by 3.0 percentage points (to 26.4 percent) for undergraduate women, 2.4 percentage points for graduate and professional women (to 10.8 percent), and 1.4 percentage points for undergraduate men (to 6.9 percent). The changes for TGQN students were not statistically significant (which were 23.1 percent in 2019 and 14.6 percent in 2019 for undergraduate and graduate/professional students, respectively) (Figures E-3 and E-4).
  3. There were significant increases from 2015 to 2019 in student reports of their knowledge about school definitions and procedures related to sexual assault and other sexual misconduct. The largest change was for knowledge of the definition, where there were increases of 11.5 percentage points for undergraduate women and 12.4 percentage points for undergraduate men.

A team of AAU university experts worked to design the survey instrument, which included optional customization of university-specific questions. AAU partnered with Westat, a leading social science research firm, to design and administer the survey in the spring of 2019. The 33 participating colleges and universities were provided their own campus-specific data to further inform how the address sexual assault and other sexual misconduct on campus.

In 2015, AAU and Westat conducted one of the largest surveys of campus sexual assault and other sexual misconduct, surveying more than 150,000 students at 27 universities. The Campus Climate Survey provided insight into students’ perceptions of campus climate, and helped universities better understand students’ experiences with sexual assault and misconduct. AAU in 2017 conducted the Campus Activities Report , which detailed the efforts of AAU member institutions to combat sexual assault and misconduct on their campuses, including dozens of concrete examples of university programs and initiatives.

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Founded in 1900, the Association of American Universities is composed of America’s leading research universities. AAU’s 62 research universities transform lives through education, research, and innovation.

Our member universities earn the majority of competitively awarded federal funding for research that improves public health, seeks to address national challenges, and contributes significantly to our economic strength, while educating and training tomorrow’s visionary leaders and innovators.

AAU member universities collectively help shape policy for higher education, science, and innovation; promote best practices in undergraduate and graduate education; and strengthen the contributions of leading research universities to American society.

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