1 in 10 female students report being sexually assaulted at UConn

The University of Connecticut's Storrs campus

CT Mirror file photo

The University of Connecticut’s Storrs campus

One in 10 female students at the University of Connecticut’s main campus in Storrs surveyed last winter by a national consortium reported that they had been sexually assaulted since enrolling in school. Among male students, one in 70 reported being victims of sexual violence.

Half of the victims reported they were assaulted during their first year at UConn. All of the reported assaults took place on campus or nearby, such as at an apartment, restaurant or bar.

The survey – designed by the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium and released by UConn officials Monday – found that systemwide 8.1 percent of female students and 1.4 percent of males reported they had been sexually assaulted at either the Storrs campus or one of the five, non-residential regional campuses. One student reported being assaulted while studying abroad.

“This survey really gave us a glimpse into what our students are experiencing in a variety of ways,” said Elizabeth Conklin, the associate vice president at UConn who oversees the office that coordinates sexual assault response and prevention. “Any single assault is too many.”

Of the 1,496 people surveyed, 83 reported they had been sexually assaulted during their tenure at UConn. Of those, 30 percent reported experiencing penetration during their attack, 14 percent reported being forced into oral sex, and the remainder reported being touched inappropriately.

One-quarter reported they were unable to give consent because they were either drugged or had passed out and drinking or taking drugs.

The survey follows questions raised by federal and state officials about whether colleges do enough to respond when students report being assaulted. UConn drew attention two years ago when a group of students filed a lawsuit and a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights alleging the university was unresponsive or insufficiently responsive when they came forward after being sexually assaulted or harassed. Protests on campus and public hearings at the state Capitol followed.

The university has since settled that lawsuit for $1.3 million, the complaint was withdrawn and a separate complaint was filed the same day. An investigation by the civil rights office is still underway.

Since then, the university has mandated training for all incoming freshman on how to come forward, resources available to those who do, and the association of alcohol with these offenses. The health center on campus is also now able to handle the rape kit when students report an assault instead of sending them to a nearby hospital.

State lawmakers also passed a law that requires every public and private university to report how often student come forward, what training takes place on campus and what the outcomes of disciplinary procedures are.

In an annual report to the federal government last fall, the university reported 43 rapes in 2015, double the number in the previous year.  The university disclosed then that it was likely to be fined by the federal government for not properly reporting such complaints in the past.

Conklin said Monday she doesn’t know what to make of the increased numbers, but is relieved that an increased number of people feel safe enough to come forward.

Even with all the increased training, only one-third of the 33 who said they were assaulted in front of other people reported that those bystanders intervened.

Seven percent of all those who told the surveyors they had been assaulted reported that they had never come forward to tell anyone about their assault.

“Our results make clear that there is more work to be done in this area to ensure that all of our community members are aware of these options and resources, and to ensure that our students feel comfortable and supported in accessing them,” UConn President Susan Herbst wrote students today.

While Herbst highlighted that the “UConn results depict fewer incidents here than the national figures that are often reported,” college officials acknowledged to reporters Monday that comparisons of this survey with others could be misleading.

For instance, the American Assocation of Universities sent out a survey to every student at 27 schools and found that 11.7 percent of respondents reported being sexually assaulted. However, UConn officials said offering every student the chance to respond might skew the results, because those who had been assaulted might be more likely to respond. An actual representative sample, like that used in the UConn survey released Monday, would be more accurate, officials said.

Hundreds of schools participated in the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium and the total national results are expected to be released later this summer. UConn anticipates conducting the survey every couple of years.

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