UM survey: 1 in 10 students sexually assaulted

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — About 1 in 10 students experienced a nonconsensual sexual experience last year while attending the University of Michigan — but hardly any of them told a university official and those who did got little support, according to results of a campus climate survey unveiled Wednesday.

The groundbreaking survey, was aimed at assessing and addressing the widely discussed issue of sexual misconduct on college campuses nationwide. The random, online survey was offered to 3,000 students, and 67 percent responded.

It showed 11 percent of all UM students — women, men, undergraduates and graduates — who responded to the survey experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact, including touching, kissing, fondling or penetration. It also showed that 9.7 percent of all female students, and 12 percent of female undergraduates, experienced nonconsensual sexual penetration.

Of those who endured sexual misconduct, only 46 percent told someone else, usually a friend or roommate, according to the survey.

Dramatically fewer students reported the misconduct to a university official — only 3.6 percent. And of those who disclosed to a UM official, just 60 percent said they received a response that made them feel supported — an issue that UM officials said they need to address.

"The whole purpose of doing the survey was to uncover ... areas where we can target to actually improve reporting," said President Mark Schlissel. "Getting a handle on this and helping students on campus, helping them thrive really requires that people feel comfortable coming forward, that they know where to go for help, and that the help is delivered sensitively and effectively."

Asked why they did not report incidents, most students said they did not want to get someone else in trouble or they blamed themselves, according to the survey. Others felt embarrassed or ashamed and did not believe the incident was serious enough to report, or that the university would do anything.

The survey also showed that students would be unlikely to report to officials in the residence halls, the dean of students, the Office for Institutional Equity or the Title IX coordinator.

Holly Rider-Milkovich, director of UM's Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Clinic, said UM can and will do more to respond to a student who discloses a sexual misconduct through additional training of the campus community, along with more tools and resources.

"So any place a student touches in our institution system that they can be assured of a sympathetic and supportive and appropriate response and connection to resources," said Rider-Milkovich. "We are simultaneously going to be working on bringing up the skill set of every member of our community to be able to respond to those students with care and compassion and support."

Rider-Milkovich added that experts in the field have long known that a caring, compassionate response from the first person to whom they disclose a sexual misconduct experience has a profound effect on healing.

"As we're focused on what we can do as an institution to support student healing, (we will be) working very hard to ensure when a student has the courage to share this info ... that they get that caring, compassionate, appropriate response," she said. "It is one of the areas where we are moving forward."

The survey comes as UM is still under federal investigation for its handling of a sexual misconduct case. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights opened the case last year — along with three cases at Michigan State University, one case at Grand Valley State University and nearly 100 other cases on college campuses across the nation.

UM, which has more than 43,000 students, reported last November that students reported 129 incidents of sexual misconduct between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014.

The survey is the university's attempt to address and assess sexual misconduct on campus. UM is among the first schools nationwide to present survey results from students, but others are moving in a similar direction, such as Rutgers University in New Jersey, Schlissel said.

It is separate from a similar survey in April by the American Association of Universities.

UM's survey was designed and conducted by a university team that included representatives from the Institute for Social Research, Student Life and the Office of General Counsel.

The survey, conducted in January, offered the university an unprecedented look at details around sexual misconduct that will help guide officials as they work to address the issue.

Among the results of the baseline survey:

■The vast majority of students — 89 percent — feel safe from sexual misconduct on the Ann Arbor campus.

■Nonconsensual penetration was experienced by 9.7 percent of all female students, compared with 1.4 percent of males.

■Of the 9.7 percent of students who experienced nonconsensual penetration, most involved the influence of drugs or alcohol or after verbal pressure.

■The groups that were more likely to experience nonconsensual penetration include females, undergraduates, lesbians, gay or bisexual students, sorority or fraternity members, underrepresented minorities and club sports members.

■About 55 percent of students reported they have received training or attended programs related to sexual misconduct, and how to prevent an incident.

During a presentation of the results, Schlissel said that this is a crucial issue that will be discussed with the campus community when students return in the fall. The survey will be repeated again to assess the university's progress in intervention, Schlissel said.

In the meantime, the university is adding staff to deliver education and prevention programs, speed up investigations and counsel survivors.

"We appreciate the seriousness of this problem," the president said, "and are committed to addressing it."