Over 40 percent of Tulane University’s undergraduate women have been sexually assaulted, according to a 2017 Tulane survey.
The Louisiana university released an executive report and action plan Wednesday, “Wave of Change,” that notes 40.5 percent of undergraduate women in January 2017 reported experiencing sexual assault since enrolling at Tulane. The national average of reported assault on college campuses in the U.S. sits at around 20 percent.
“The results of this survey are deeply concerning and reveal the painful truth that our many programs and efforts designed to prevent sexual assault, while considered among the nation’s best, have not worked nearly well enough,” Tania Tetlow, the school’s senior vice president and chief of staff, told The Daily Caller News Foundation Friday.
The university administered a sexual harassment and sexual violence campus climate survey, according to the report, and asked students about sexual misconduct.
Tetlow said the survey is “considered a gold standard among sexual misconduct surveys” and added that “some university surveys have shown lower rates of sexual misconduct while others, such as Duke, have shown comparable rates.”
The survey defined sexual assault as kissing, fondling, removing clothing without consent, or any unwanted sexual contact. Rape and attempted rape are also included as sexual assault.
The survey’s questions about sexual assault included asking students if they had been repeatedly told sexual stories or offensive jokes, had faced offensive remarks about appearance, or encountered sexual gestures and body language that embarrassed them. Students were also asked if they’d been continually asked on dates to which they said no, or had experienced unwanted attempts to kiss or fondle them.
The survey asked respondents if they’d been treated badly for refusing to have sex or if they’d been offered better treatment for being sexually cooperative.
Fifty-three percent of undergraduate students responded.
The survey received a 47 percent response rate overall, with 4,644 full-time students responding to the survey. Of all women students, 32.6 percent reported that they had been sexually assaulted since enrolling at Tulane.
“Tulane realizes it has a serious problem and we are committed to supporting survivors and ending sexual assault in our academic community,” Tetlow told the DCNF.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics defines sexual assault as rape, attempted rape, and “attacks or attempted attacks generally involving unwanted sexual contact between victim and offender. Sexual assaults may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing or fondling. It also includes verbal threats.”
Students at Tulane were given three weeks to complete the survey in 2017. About 72 percent of victims reported they had been drinking when they were assaulted and 10.5 percent had been using drugs and alcohol together. Sixty-two percent of female respondents said they typically drank three to six drinks when they have alcohol, since enrolling at Tulane.
Over 90 percent of Tulane’s survey respondents said they would still enroll at Tulane if they could do things over again and added that they would recommend attending Tulane to others.
Tulane’s action plan will “include integrating sexual misconduct prevention throughout the Tulane educational experience [and] addressing specific issues of race, gender, sexuality, intersectionality and sexual violence,” Tetlow said.
A June 2015 Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that one in five college women say they’ve been sexually assaulted. They based their claim on a poll of 1,035 four-year college students, in which 20 percent of female students said they had either been subjected to forcible sexual contact or else engaged in sexual contact while incapacitated and unable to consent.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), however, published a Dec. 2014 report using a National Crime Victimization Survey to compare the rape and sexual assault victimization of female college students and non-students, and found that the rate of rape and sexual assault was 1.2 times higher for nonstudents than for students. Activists site studies that found a one-in-five assault rate, but federal crime data from 1995 to 2013 suggests the rate is one-tenth of that or even less.
The DOJ’s report showed that survey context and scope, definitions of rape and sexual assault, mode and response rates, and question wording also had a large effect on how students responded to the survey questions. The data showed that the rate of rape and sexual assault was lower than the rate of aggravated and simple assault for both students and non-students. (RELATED: Are 20 Percent Of Women Really Assaulted In College?)
Fifty-seven percent of all adults think assault is a “big problem” on campus and 31 percent say it is “somewhat” of a problem, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. However, 37 percent of college students see assault as a notable problem.
Given that many universities have not conducted sexual assault surveys and that survey types vary greatly, it is difficult to compare rates of sexual misconduct between schools. Tulane conducted its survey after extensive programming on its campus, and its report followed nationwide events that heightened awareness of sexual assault.
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