Letter from the President and Provost
Members of the Indiana University community:
The university has released the findings of a comprehensive survey of experiences, attitudes and perceptions regarding sexual misconduct and related topics among students on the Bloomington campus.
This is the first time the university has conducted such a survey, and more than 7,100 undergraduate and graduate students completed at least 50 percent of the survey and had their responses included in the findings.
Student participants provided a variety of demographic and personal information that will help guide IU’s efforts in this area. While the overall response rate for those who completed at least half of the survey of 17 percent is perhaps a bit lower than we would have liked, the volume of responses nonetheless allows us to draw some meaningful conclusions on issues related to sexual misconduct on the Bloomington campus, and we are appreciative of all those who took the time to share their experiences and views.
In simplest terms, the findings from the survey confirmed much of the anecdotal evidence that we have accumulated through our ongoing efforts to reduce the instances of sexual misconduct in all forms and to support those who have been the victims of such actions. They also offered some notable—and disturbing—insights into this issue that have not received as much attention to date in the national conversation on this important issue.
The findings—while consistent with those reported by other U.S. universities that have conducted similar student surveys—are sobering.
Seventeen percent of the undergraduate women participating in the survey reported being the victims of attempted or completed nonconsensual sexual penetration while at IU, while 29 percent reported experiencing some type of nonconsensual sexual contact. Additionally, 35 percent of the undergraduate women participants and a similar percentage of women graduate students reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment while at IU.
Equally concerning was the finding that approximately 86 percent of all women participants who said they had experienced some sort of nonconsensual sexual contact did not report the incident to anyone at IU. Perhaps most distressing, however, was the revelation that among those participants who did not report an experience of the most serious type of sexual misconduct—nonconsensual attempted or completed sexual penetration—45 percent of the undergraduate women and 29 percent of the women graduate students indicated that they didn’t feel the incident was "serious enough” to disclose.
Findings such as these make it clear that the university community has work to do to reduce instances of sexual misconduct and to better support those who experience sexual harassment or assault of any kind.
We must do more to create a climate that sends the unmistakable message that any form of sexual misconduct is unacceptable. We also must continue to build on our already considerable efforts to provide a campus environment where victims of sexual misconduct are comfortable reporting their experiences and have confidence in the university’s ability to effectively investigate and resolve their complaints, and feel supported within their community.
The survey results also highlighted some of the myriad factors that make combatting sexual assault on college campuses such a complex challenge.
For example, IU Bloomington students—women and men, undergraduate and graduate students alike—reported experiencing sexual harassment or assault before arriving at IU at rates similar to, or higher than, those they experienced while at IU. These results were consistent across all types of misconduct, including instances of attempted or completed nonconsensual sexual penetration, and speak to a need to better address this issue in our high schools and communities.
Most of the findings from the survey speak to areas of concerns and issues in which more work needs to be done by all of us at IU. Still, there are some positives upon which we can build as we move forward in our work to tackle this serious problem.
As examples, a considerable majority of all students feel the university takes complaints of sexual misconduct seriously and that they know where to go to seek immediate help if they or someone they know is the victim of sexual misconduct. Similarly, large majorities of all students feel safe on the Bloomington campus and report being happy to be at IU.
Also heartening is the fact that nearly 95 percent of our undergraduate students have participated in some sort of program, event, training or class that deals with sexual assault or gender-related issues. Additionally, about half of all student respondents on campus think they personally can make a positive difference in addressing the issue of sexual misconduct, and fewer than 5 percent felt this issue was the sole responsibility of the university—speaking to the fact that this is an issue that must be tackled by a unified campus community.
The process of using the information gathered through this survey to inform and improve the university’s ongoing prevention, education and response effort related to all forms of sexual misconduct already has begun. For example, student leaders from across IU will be gathering this month for a conference on sexual assault and we will be discussing these findings—and how we can use them to drive improvements—with our Student Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force in the near future.
The phrase “It’s On Us” has become synonymous over the past year with the responsibility we all share in combatting the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. As we begin the next phase in Indiana University’s efforts to address this issue with the release of our student climate survey findings, rest assured that all of us at IU are committed to doing whatever we can to create a safer and more supportive climate for all our students.
We welcome your input on the climate survey or more generally on this issue at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about IU’s ongoing work to address sexual violence, we encourage you to visit stopsexualviolence.iu.edu.
Michael A. McRobbie
Indiana University Bloomington