One in four undergraduate women at UW-Madison say they have been sexually assaulted since beginning college, according to a new report released Tuesday from the Association of American Universities.
Undergraduate women reported the highest rate of sexual assault at 26.1 percent, but this was a statistically insignificant change from the 2015 survey’s report of 27.6 percent.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank called these numbers “distressingly high — and even a single incidence of sexual assault is too many.”
Twenty percent of campus participated in the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct, in line with 2015’s response rate of 22.2 percent. Four years ago, 60.5 percent of respondents were female, versus 64.7 percent this year. The report weighted the responses based on the demographics of UW-Madison’s total student population.
Among other gender groups, 6.8 percent of undergraduate men, 13.1 percent of female graduate or professional students and 3.8 percent of male graduate or professional students reported experiencing sexual assault. For TGQN students — transgender, genderqueer or nonbinary, questioning or not listed — the survey found 28.4 percent reported experiencing an assault.
LGBTQ+ students at UW-Madison experience sexual assault at a higher rate, a statistic that has remained steady from 2015 to 2019. This year’s survey found that 22.5 percent of LGBTQ+ students reported experiencing sexual assault since starting college, compared to an overall rate of 13.7 percent for heterosexual students.
The report also found alcohol to be a common factor in the sexual assaults of women, as 78.8 percent of respondents reported that someone involved in the assault was drinking prior to the incident. Just over 90 percent of respondents said they were drinking prior to the assault, a number on par with AAU’s national average.
However, something that has improved from 2015 is the percentage of students with knowledge of UW-Madison’s resources for sexual assault victims. Just over a third — 34.6 percent — of students knew where to go for help at the university in 2015, and this year the number increased to 45.8 percent of students who claim to know this information.
After the release of the 2015 AAU survey, UW-Madison instituted new programming as a response, Blank wrote in the report. The university hired more staff in the Title IX Office and University Health Services and mandated prevention training for all faculty, staff and graduate students, along with adding a required in-person training for undergraduates.
UW-Madison will use the new survey results to change campus programs and policies again, Blank said. The university will be hosting campus forums in November to hear feedback from the public.
UW-Madison’s summary of the survey results list several next steps: hiring an additional counselor in UHS Survivor Services, adding a case manager position in the Title IX Program, supporting a trauma-informed care initiative at UHS and using the clinical data from Survivor Services to look for areas of need for students on campus.
The university also plans to apply for membership in the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators’ Culture of Respect Collective, which helps participating institutions with self-assessment and organizational change to address sexual violence on campus.
“Reducing sexual violence at UW will require changes in behavior and culture as well as in resources and the campus environment,” Blank wrote. “We are committed to doing all we can to ensure a safe living and learning environment for all of our students.”