Nearly 1 in 4 female undergrads face sexual assault, major survey finds

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A national survey of prominent colleges and universities found that almost 1 in 4 female undergraduate students reported being the victim of a sexual assault during her college career.


The survey, which was conducted by the American Association of Universities and included students in 27 public and private universities and colleges, follows multiple other studies showing high rates of sexual assault on college campuses.

Overall, 23% of the undergraduate female students who responded to the survey said they had experienced some form of sexual assault—either nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching—since they entered school. 11% said they were victims of penetration—in other words, the criminal definition of rape or sodomy.

In comparison, 5% of undergraduate male students and 24% of undergraduate genderqueer or gender non-conforming students reported being victims of any kind of sexual assault. Graduate students report lower levels of victimization.

The survey found that less than 28% of "the most serious incidents" are reported to campus or law enforcement officials.

More than 150,000 undergraduate and graduate students took the survey in April and May. The study's authors note that because only 19% of students at the 27 schools participated in the study, the victimization rates may be inflated, as people who didn't respond may be less likely to have experienced sexual assault.

Officials at many of the universities surveyed announced new task forces or efforts to address the problem. In an email to students and staff, Harvard President Drew Faust said the results were "deeply disturbing" and "extremely distressing," and ordered a task force to create new recommendations.


The schools surveyed included a variety of public and private universities, including almost all of the Ivy League and a number of the nation's largest public research universities.

Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.