Comparing sexual violence survey data over the past year
Rates of sexual violence on campus this year were relatively similar to rates last year, but student trust in the administration has dropped, according to a recent survey.
University of Oregon Psychology Professor Jennifer Freyd released the results from her 2015 UO Sexual Violence survey on Monday, Aug. 24. Freyd conducted a similar survey one year ago, in August and September of 2014. The 2015 study was at the end of the school year, in May and June of 2015. The new study expands on some of the findings made in the previous survey and gives an update on the progress made over the course of last school year.
Difference in Participants
Participants in the 2015 survey were similar to those in the year before, although less diverse. In 2014, 66 percent of the participants were women and 74 percent were white. This year, 63 percent were female and 82 percent were white.
The major difference among the survey participants at the end of the year was how they perceived the survey. It seems that more people are willing to talk about sexual violence on campus than at the beginning of the year. In 2014, over 50 percent of participants felt “neutral” about the survey, meaning they had no opinion about the subject matter. This year, only 29 percent felt “neutral,” with more people leaning toward the “less distressed” side.
Less participants this year felt the survey was necessary. Only 43 percent of women and 36 percent of men felt the survey was “definitely important,” compared to 65 percent of women and 60 percent of men last year.
Difference in Victimization
Rates of sexual violence remained similar through the course of the year. In 2014, 10 percent of female students reported being raped — defined as unwanted, completed penetration. This year, the number rose to 13 percent. The most all-encompassing category however, completed or attempted unwanted sexual contact, fell from 35 percent to 27 percent of female students.
Trust in Administration
The term “institutional betrayal,” coined by Freyd, is used to describe when an institution commits a wrongdoing against someone dependent on that institution. Recently, it has been most commonly used to describe controversial responses by universities when a sexual assault is reported. In 2014, 41 percent of sexual violence victims reported that they were subjected to some sort of institutional betrayal. This number moved to 44 percent this year.
The most common form of betrayal indicated in 2014 was the university creating an environment where the victim’s experience seemed common. During that year, 70 percent of victims believed this. “Type of betrayal” was not broken down in the 2015 survey, but a similar question, asking if students felt “safe from sexual harassment” on campus, showed that only 42 percent of female undergraduate students felt safe on campus.
According to the survey, the university doesn’t seem to have gained any trust from the students this year. In the 2015 survey, 54 percent of students, not just victims, believed that UO would not “take the report seriously” if they were to report an act of sexual violence. Only 29 percent of students felt the university would “handle the report fairly.”
These numbers could be related to the fact that 90 percent of sexual violence victims in the 2014 survey said they did not report the incident to a university source.
Expanding the Survey
The 2015 survey included graduate students as well as undergraduates. Overall, graduate student rates of sexual violence were much lower than undergraduate rates, but graduate students, particularly in the law school, reported alarmingly high levels of harassment from other students and professors. Freyd is conducting further studies on this topic.