Survey: A quarter of MU women say they’ve been sexually assaulted in college

More than one in four undergraduate women at the University of Missouri have been sexually assaulted since coming to the Columbia campus, and another quarter worry it will happen before they leave, according to a survey released Tuesday.

Likewise, a quarter of transgender students say they have already been assaulted on campus, and half worry they will be.

Those numbers drop significantly among men and graduate students of both genders.

The latest results are compiled in the 204-page 2019 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct. MU was among 33 colleges and universities across the country to participate in the survey, organized by the Association of American Universities. The University of Kansas and Washington University in St. Louis also participated but have not yet released results.

The percentage of women reporting they were sexually assaulted has actually improved since a previous survey done at MU in 2015.

“The most important safety issue facing universities today is how to better prevent and effectively respond to sexual assaults on college campuses,” AAU officials said.

Data from the survey — administered online April 4 — is intended to aid efforts to prevent and respond to sexual assault and other misconduct on campuses.

Among the students sexually assaulted, 13.7% of undergraduate women and 3.7% of the men said the assault involved “penetration by physical force or inability to consent,” the report said. And 10.5% of transgender students reported being victimized in this way.

More than 27,400 MU students were involved in the survey. Students were offered $5 to participate.

“These results tell me we still have work to do,” said MU Chancellor Alexander N. Cartwright. “With some encouraging results, I am confident our demonstrated efforts over the past four years have been effective. However, a single instance of sexual assault or misconduct is one too many.”

Still roughly 22% of those surveyed said sexual assault or other misconduct is “very” or “extremely” problematic at MU. Among undergraduates, 28.4% of women and 15.8% of men felt this way.

The good news, university officials said, is significantly more students than four years ago are aware of the resources on campus to help victims of sexual assault. And 65.9% said they believe that a report of sexual assault or misconduct will be taken seriously by campus officials. Nearly half, 49.4%, said they believed those officials would conduct a fair investigation.

MU was the only one of the University of Missouri System schools to participate in this study, but system officials said that each of the other three — in Kansas City, Rolla and St. Louis — also are conducting similar surveys.

UMKC survey results

The results of a University of Missouri-Kansas City survey released on Tuesday “demonstrate that more people understand that certain behaviors are unacceptable and are willing to report when misconduct occurs,” said Sybil B. Wyatt, the UMKC director of affirmative action and Title IX coordinator. “People are also more cognizant of their responsibility to respect others and refrain from such misconduct. These are encouraging developments.”

UMKC saw a slight uptick in the percent of students who said they had been victims of sexual assault — from 5% in 2015 to 6% this year. Roughly 4% said they had experienced dating or intimate partner violence, and in a third of those cases, the offender was another student.

“Of those respondents, 78.5% reported that those sexual assaults occurred off campus,” according to the survey, which was sent to 12,843 students and answered by 1,897, a 14.8% response rate. The percentage of surveyed UMKC students who said they believe it is important to get consent before engaging in sexual activity rose from 84% four years ago to 98.5% this year.

While UMKC chancellor Mauli Agrawal said the survey points to positive changes, it also reveals areas of continued concern.

“We cannot be satisfied with our efforts as long as any member of our community suffers the negative effects of sexual misconduct,” he said. “We must be vigilant and look for ways to always do better.”

By the numbers

26.6% of undergraduate women responding to the 2019 survey experienced unwanted sexual contact since coming to MU. That’s down from 27.2% in 2015.

29.4% of transgender or gender-questioning students experienced sexual assault at MU. That number averaged 40.2% for all universities participating in the survey.

49.7% of transgender students say sexual assault is a big problem for MU.

Mizzou’s 20.4% response rate is higher than the AAU average of 16.5% and higher than the 2015 MU response rate of 15.7%.

6.9% of students thought it was “very” or “extremely” likely that they would be sexually assaulted or experience some other sexual misconduct while at MU.

At UMKC, students who said they had intervened when witnessing sexual misconduct rose from 32% in 2015 to more than 50% this year.

Universities across the country have been put under a national spotlight for how diligently they work to reduce sexual assault ever since the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault released its first report in 2014. Campus climate studies are one way schools can measure how well students believe they are doing.

Universities including UM System schools have taken such measures as increasing the presence of security officers, training students, launching bystander intervention programs and educating students on the meaning of consent.

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Mará has written on all things education for The Star for 20 years, including issues of school safety, teen suicide, universal pre-K programs, college costs, campus protests and university branding.