Survey: 70% of UM, MSU women don’t report sex assaults

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

One of the largest national surveys of campus sexual misconduct showed that more than 1 in 10 female undergraduates at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University said they were victims of nonconsensual penetration.

But about 70 percent of affected students at the two universities did not report the incidents.

The findings, released Monday, are part of an enormous survey by the Association of American Universities, which includes the voices of more than 150,000 students at 27 universities — including 8,352 at MSU and 6,712 at UM.

At UM, 13.2 percent of female undergraduates reported unwanted penetration, while at MSU, the figure was 12 percent.

“Sexual misconduct must be addressed on our college campuses and throughout society,” UM President Mark Schlissel said. “This research is vitally important to our understanding of this problem so we can design education and prevention efforts in the most effective manner possible.”

MSU President Lou Ann Simon added: “The survey underscores that sexual assault on college campuses is a serious national issue … No member of our community should be threatened by sexual violence.”

UM and MSU, along with Grand Valley State University, have been under investigation by federal officials for their handling of sexual misconduct cases. Recently, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights found MSU violated the law and entered an agreement requiring the university to make numerous changes to its campus policies.

UM, meanwhile, conducted a sexual misconduct survey on campus this year that found 11 percent of all students had a nonconconsensual sexual experience within the previous year.

The national survey showed that a vast majority of UM and MSU students who experience sexual misconduct do not report it.

For female victims of nonconsensual penetration by physical force at MSU, 71.9 percent did not report the incident, according to the survey. At UM, 76.8 percent did not report.

When asked why, students’ most common reason was that they did not think the incident was serious enough, the report showed. Other reasons included shame, emotional difficulty or belief that nothing would be done about it.

“We have long known, both here at MSU and nationally, that sexual assault is vastly underreported,” said Paulette Granberry Russell, MSU’s Title IX coordinator and senior adviser to the president.

“We must continue discussions on campus about how serious this issue is and foster a culture that empowers women and men to come forward. This work includes not only increasing awareness and education efforts but also ensuring we have a coordinated response and proper resources in place for survivors.”

The survey includes data on numerous issues, resulting in detailed reports exceeding more than 130 pages each from MSU and UM.

For instance, the survey showed that at MSU, 1 out of 4 female undergraduate students experienced nonconsensual penetration or unwanted sexual touching, reflecting the national average. At UM, reports were slightly higher, at 30.3 percent.

The survey also addressed sexual harassment, and found that 54.7 percent of UM students indicated they had experienced sexual harassment while in college. Among UM’s students, the highest rate — 73.2 percent — was reported by female undergraduates.

At MSU, 49.4 percent of students overall said they have been sexually harassed. Female undergraduates reported this most often, at 61.6 percent.

“We hope the data our universities have collected in this survey will help guide their policies and practices as they work to address and prevent sexual assault and sexual misconduct on campus, and to ensure that reports of sexual assault and sexual misconduct are handled with care, compassion and a commitment to fair, prompt and impartial review and resolution,” said Hunter Rawlings, AAU president.

Conducted in April and May, the survey was developed by Westat, a social science research firm, and a multidisciplinary team formed by AAU.