In April 2015, UNC-Chapel Hill elected to be one of 27 public and private institutions of various sizes, geographies, and missions to participate in the Association of American Universities’ (AAU) Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. The AAU sought to gain more understanding of the general campus climate on sexual assault, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, and stalking and to help collect institution-specific data to guide prevention and support efforts.  We welcomed the opportunity to invite our students to be heard as part of this important effort and we knew that our students would want to be part of this.

The AAU survey asked questions about prevalence, perception of risk, bystander intervention, and awareness of resources.  We received a tremendous amount of data in our report and data tables just one week ago.  Researchers, statisticians and staff will be thoroughly studying and examining this information in the coming weeks to help inform our ongoing prevention and response efforts.  The University’s Prevention Task Force will be using this data to build a set of recommendations for action.

The University’s final report and data tables provided by AAU and Westat (the research firm hired by the AAU to administer the survey) are available.  We will be further analyzing all of the information to get a more complete picture of the data. In the meantime, we would like to highlight a few preliminary points from the report we received:

Demographics:  28,353 students enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill in April 2015 were invited to participate: 5,212 completed the survey, for a response rate of 18.4 percent.  Among participants, 3,451 (66.2 percent) self-identified as female, 1,697 (32.6 percent) self-identified as male, and the AAU’s report indicated 64 (1.2 percent) self-identified as other, including transgender, genderqueer or non-conforming, questioning, or not listed.  Additionally, 3,201 (61.4 percent) were undergraduates and 2,011 (38.6 percent) were graduate or professional students.  The survey also collected information about other characteristics, including year in school, race, sexual orientation, and disability status. All schools took the survey at the same time as directed by the AAU. At UNC-Chapel Hill, the survey was conducted during the last few weeks of class, which is a busy time of the year for students as they complete projects and prepare for final exams.

Sexual Assault:  The survey asked questions about the prevalence of non-consensual:

  • sexual touching (kissing, touching, groping, or rubbing in a sexual way even if over the other’s clothes) by means of physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation due to drugs or alcohol
  • completed penetration (penetration with the penis, finger, or object, or oral sex) by means of physical force or threats of physical force
  • completed penetration by incapacitation
  • attempted penetration by force

Overall, 12.9 percent of survey respondents indicated that they had experienced at least one of these types of conduct since matriculating at Carolina.  Prevalence differed by many variables, including gender identity and enrollment status.  For example, 24.3 percent of female undergraduate respondents indicated experiencing these types of conduct since enrolling, 1.4 percent of male graduate respondents indicated experiencing this conduct since enrolling, and 26.3 percent of undergraduates identifying as transgender, genderqueer or non-conforming, questioning, or not listed indicated experiencing these types of conduct since enrolling.  5.7 percent of all survey respondents reported experiencing penetration due to incapacitation or force.  It is somewhat difficult to compare these prevalence estimates with previous studies due to differences in methodology such as survey delivery, breadth of definitions, and types of behaviors and tactics included.  Regardless, the survey numbers reinforce the importance of continued focus on this issue and expanded prevention programming.

Resources and Reporting:  Overall, a majority of survey respondents (74.1 percent) reported they were  “somewhat” to “very” or “extremely” knowledgeable about where to get help at the University if they or a friend are affected by sexual assault. 87.2 percent of survey respondents also indicated that campus officials would take the report seriously. 82.8 percent of survey respondents indicated that it is “somewhat,” “very,” or “extremely” likely that the University will provide a fair investigation and 76 percent of respondents said it is “somewhat,” “very,” or “extremely” likely that the University will take action against the offender.  We take such feedback seriously and are committed to even more communication about our processes, policies, and procedures.  Overall, reporting rates among those respondents who had experienced sexual touching and non-consensual penetration were low. 57.1 percent of female respondents indicated the reason for not reporting or seeking support from law enforcement or University officials after non-consensual penetration by force was that the incident was “not considered serious enough.”

Contributing Factors and Additional Training Opportunities: Many survey respondents indicated a high frequency of incidents involving alcohol.  In addition, survey respondents indicated many incidents occurred in residence halls and fraternity and sorority housing.  We know that many of our students live in these locations, but we will review and examine the data for a deeper understanding.  We can start now by expanding bystander intervention training to better equip our students to help friends in need. We also note the data provide guidelines for improving our orientation programming on these issues.

View infographics capturing preliminary takeaways from survey data.

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We look forward to a more full review of the data and the feedback of the Prevention Task Force.  We have done much to help make Carolina a safe community over the last two years and we thank all of the people who have worked tirelessly on these issues.  We know, however, that there is more to be done:  even one incident of sexual assault or sexual misconduct among our campus community is too many.