Sexual misconduct survey results from 2018 published in anticipation of the 2022 survey


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania – Penn State has released the results of the 2018 Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey, a comprehensive university-wide survey of students’ experiences and attitudes towards sexual misconduct that is conducted every three years.

According to the survey results, 19% of college students and 7.1% of college / university graduates at University Park reported having been sexually assaulted at least once, a slight increase of less than 1% from the 2015 survey. These results vary by campus, and each campus receives a report that summarizes the data for its population.

A town hall will be held later this semester to discuss the university’s progress and continued commitment to these issues.

“The data from this survey is invaluable and will guide our actions as we build on our educational programs and support resources for those affected by sexual misconduct,” said Damon Sims, vice president, student affairs. “The university strives to create a safe, supportive campus climate that leaves no room for sexual assault or harassment. This survey is just one tool in the university’s efforts to combat sexual misconduct. “

The survey, completed in the fall of 2018, is a key tool in ongoing efforts to inform policy, student support, and educational programs across the university aimed at reducing sexual misconduct and improving the experience of all Penn State students. It was one of 18 recommendations by the Task Force on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment that President Eric Barron appointed in 2014 to examine the university’s resources to combat sexual misconduct.

The distribution of the results of the 2018 survey was delayed due to personnel bottlenecks in the analysis of the data for all campuses as well as unforeseen disruptions due to critical COVID-19-related needs.

The 2018 survey was completed by a representative sample of 8,620 students across the university, including both undergraduate and postgraduate students at 23 of the university’s 24 locations. At University Park, 10,937 undergraduate and 3,000 grad / professional students received the survey, and the response rate at University Park was 25.6% among undergraduate students and 41.1% among graduate students.

The completely anonymous, voluntary, and electronically completed survey covered a range of topics from whether a student felt safe from sexual harassment on or near campus to whether the student had resources like counseling and knows psychological services. University Park findings include 78.5% of college students and 83.5% of college graduates / professional students feeling safe from sexual harassment on or around campus, a slight increase from the 2015 survey.

Each of the 23 Penn State campuses where students were surveyed received a separate report based on responses from their own campus participants. Specific data for each outcome will vary from campus to campus, and individual campuses may share their findings separately. All reports with a summary of the results can be found online here.

University Park results include:

  • 68.3% of undergraduate students and 73.6% of college / professional students said the university would take reports of sexual misconduct seriously.
  • 60.1% of undergraduate students and 59.7% of college graduates / professionals said the university would treat the report fairly.
  • 46.7% of undergraduate students and 68.9% of undergraduate / professional students said they received written information on how to report an incident of sexual misconduct.
  • Among the first-year students, 27.1% of women, 6.1% of men and 25.5% of those surveyed with sexual and gender-specific diversity stated that they had been the victim of sexual assault or sexual assault at least once.
  • Among the graduates / professionals, 11.2% of women, 2.7% of men and 10.9% of those questioned with sexual and gender-specific diversity stated that they had been the victim of sexual assault or sexual assault at least once.
  • Among the students who reported experiencing any type of sexual misconduct, 62.9% of women and 43.6% of men reported telling someone about the incident or incidents.
  • 33.3% of the Bachelor and 21.1% of the Graduates / Professionals stated that they “always” or “mostly” asked someone who looked very upset at a party whether he was okay or whether he needed help if he had been there in this situation.
  • The most common reason cited as an obstacle to inaction in a situation where sexual misconduct was likely or occurring was “You did not have enough information to determine if it was worrying enough to intervene”. 68.7% of the undergraduate students and 68% of the postgraduate / professional students cited this barrier as one of the three largest barriers.

Additional survey topics included students’ perceptions of the university’s response to reports of sexual misconduct; about the attitude of their friends, which behavior is appropriate; how safe you feel; their awareness of resources available to students; and whether they have been pressured to develop unwanted romantic or sexual relationships.

The next survey is to be carried out in spring 2022.

“The Student Affairs Research and Evaluation Bureau is in the planning stage for the next survey,” said Adam Christensen, director of study and evaluation research and evaluation. “As part of this process, we look forward to involving student leaders in the process to help review the survey tool and participate in discussions around the presentation of the final data.”

While racial identity was not analyzed in the first iteration of these reports, Student Affairs Research and Assessment intends to continue analyzing this data to determine different impacts based on race and ethnicity. These demographics will be among the variables discussed before the 2022 survey is conducted.

“The structure of the data in the 2018 report should be compared with the 2015 data report; However, we recognize the importance of analyzing Penn State’s perceptions and experiences of sexual misconduct using a variety of demographics, including racial identity, “Christensen said. “For the administration of the 2022 survey, the student council, together with the campus partners, will provide additional discussions, guidance and planning on additional voices and experiences that should be highlighted in both the survey and the resulting report. As a university and global community, we are evolving in these areas, and a lot has changed since 2018 that we need to address in the future. “

Since conducting the last survey in 2015, Penn State has made progress in many areas related to sexual misconduct prevention and response, including staff recruitment, additional training and prevention, and ongoing reviews of policies and procedures.

The Gender Equity Center hires a full-time survivor advocate to advocate for all students who have experienced sexual misconduct, intimate partner violence, harassment, or stalking, as well as a full-time education and public relations coordinator to develop and prevent education programs to facilitate the university. In addition, the center is stepping up its prevention and programming efforts to ensure they are based on equity and inclusion.

In addition, a student advisory board has been set up to work with the Office for Prevention and Response to Sexual Misconduct. The Committee is working with the Office to review and improve our informal settlement process, among other procedures that directly affect both parties involved in Title IX matters.

“We are constantly looking to review and revise our guidelines,” said Chris Harris, Penn State Title IX coordinator, who helped convene the group and works to find student leaders to help plan the next survey take part. “The results of this survey are very valuable as part of this effort. We know that such crimes can result in significant trauma / or repercussions and we are very grateful to the students who invested heavily in this process and the University’s efforts to achieve Title IX. “

The 2018 Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey was based on the Administration Researcher Campus Climate Collaborative (ARC3) survey, based on proposals from the White House Task Force to Protect School Students from Sexual Assault. Penn State’s survey was conducted by the Office of Student Affairs Research and Assessment, a division of Penn State Student Affairs that works with DatStat, a data research company with which the university has worked on other survey projects.


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