One in five University of Florida female undergraduate students said they have experienced
a form of sexual assault since entering the university, and five percent of male undergraduates have reported the same.
UF released their results of the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct on Wednesday. The school was one of 27 universities to participate in the survey conducted by the Association of American Universities.
The goal of the survey was to “provide participating institutions of higher education with information to inform policies to prevent and respond to sexual assault and misconduct,” according to the AAU website.
“We’ve been able to demonstrate that we don’t believe in hiding numbers. It’s why we voluntarily decided to participate in this survey,” said Chris Loschiavo, deputy Title IX coordinator for students at UF. “We’re really interested to know what the climate is like on campus so we can better address it.”
The results reported that 17.6 percent of non-heterosexual UF students have experienced nonconsensual sexual conduct, compared with 10.6 percent for heterosexuals.
The survey delved into how female undergraduates responded to sexual assault and sexual misconduct. Of those who responded, 58 percent said they did not report the behavior because they didn’t find it serious enough to report, 23 percent did not think anything would be done about it, 18 percent feared the information wouldn’t be confidential, and 27 percent felt embarrassed or ashamed.
The numbers do not add to 100 percent because students were able to choose more than one answer.
“The university does take safety very seriously,” Loschiavo said. “It’s one of our top priorities, it always has been.”
The voluntary survey was sent to 12,000 randomly selected students in April, and almost 17 percent responded. Of those who responded, more than two-thirds of UF students believed that campus officials would take a report of sexual assault or misconduct seriously.
Sixty percent of responders said they believed campus officials would take the safety of those reporting incidents seriously.
“If you don’t report it, we can’t do anything,” Loschiavo said. “Every report we get, we take very seriously as an institution and we follow up and investigate thoroughly.”
Loschiavo said the university plans to use the data to improve its current procedures for dealing with sexual assault and misconduct but, as of now, it is too early to tell what exact actions will be taken.
Across all universities, the Campus Climate Survey reported 28 percent or less of the most serious incidents are reported to an organization or agency.
Findings specific to UF were found to generally match student responses from other top-tier universities that participated in the study. It also aligned with similar recent national surveys regarding sexual assault on college campuses.
Loschiavo said students should look to various campus resources available to students regarding sexual assault and misconduct. Some of these resources include Gatorwell; UMatter, WeCare; UFPD’s Victim Services; and Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) courses.
Tina Lamb, RAD program coordinator, wrote in an email that all courses were full last year.
“Women who have safety education and self-defense training gain confidence, are more assertive and have a greater sense of self-efficacy,” Lamb said. “That confidence impacts all aspects of their life, making them more comfortable setting boundaries in relationships, more likely to speak up in class or at work and giving them an improved body image.”
Rita Lawrence, Gatorwell’s interpersonal violence prevention coordinator, said the organization is there for all students, not just those who have experienced some form of sexual misconduct.
“All students have a role to play in ending sexual violence,” Lawrence said. “We want to encourage people to stop the type of thinking that lets people think [sexual misconduct] is OK.”