Over half of all Yale students who responded to a survey on sexual climate last April have experienced some form of sexual harassment since arriving on campus, and 16.1 percent have experienced attempted or completed sexual assault — making Yale students more likely to experience some form of sexual misconduct than students at other universities nationwide, according to new survey results released today by the Association of American Universities and Yale.
The figures — which University President Peter Salovey called “extremely disturbing” and “counter to our most fundamental values” in a University-wide email Monday — are even higher for certain demographics, such as undergraduates, women and those who do not identify in the traditional gender binary.
Seventy-four percent of female undergraduate respondents at Yale reported experiencing sexual harassment. For those who do not identify as male or female, the figure is even higher, at 84.2 percent.
On average across the 27 schools surveyed, rates of misconduct are lower. The survey found that 11.7 percent of students, on average, had experienced some kind of sexual contact by physical force, threats or incapacitation since entering their respective institution. Among Yale undergraduates, however, that number was 18.1 percent. Females undergraduates at Yale experienced such contact at an even higher rate, 28.1 percent — 5 percent higher than their counterparts across the 27 schools surveyed.
Male students, the survey found, are far from immune from sexual misconduct on Yale’s campus — 8.2 percent of male undergraduates have experienced forced sexual contact since entering the University. But the reality, for men, did not match perceptions. Only 1.6 percent of men at Yale thought they were “very” or “extremely” likely to experience sexual misconduct while on campus.
Perhaps most striking, though, was the rate of sexual assault among students who the report identified as “other gender”: 28.4 percent experienced nonconsensual penetration or forced sexual touching.
In a statement to the News, the Yale Women’s Center said that the numbers are “sobering and startling — [but] not shocking.”
The survey results, Salovey said in his University-wide email, reflect the need for Yale to redouble its efforts in fighting sexual misconduct on campus. As a first step, he said, the University will invite a national expert to review existing prevention and education programs.
Senior Advisor to the President Martha Highsmith said the University will seek out experts both within its own campus and beyond it, consulting with psychology and public health scholars to determine the best ways to address the problem.
The statistics emerged from a survey released last spring by the AAU to nearly 800,000 students at 27 universities. More than 6,500 students at the University participated — over half of the entire student population.
Yale’s response rate was more than double the average response rate of 19.3 percent across the 27 universities. Harvard had the highest response rate, at 53.2 percent.
Meanwhile, the prevalence of sexual misconduct was lower among graduate and professional school students than undergraduates — 8.2 percent of graduate female students at Yale have experienced nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching involving force or incapacitation since arriving here.
University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews said she is still grateful to have such comprehensive information about that demographic of campus for the first time.
“We all knew there were issues, but we had few studies that actually gave us scope as to those groups and what’s happening in those communities,” Goff-Crews said.
At Harvard, 31 percent of senior undergraduate women reported having experienced nonconsensual sexual conduct while on campus. At Columbia, 24.4 percent of undergraduate female seniors reported experiencing sexual assault since beginning college.
Administrators said there are multiple causes for hope within the otherwise concerning data about Yale. For example, although overall numbers for Yale women who have experienced penetration due to force or incapacitation are higher than the AAU aggregate, when the numbers are broken down by class year, freshmen surveyed actually reported a lower prevalence of such assault than the survey average.
A possible cause for this difference, according to Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd, is that many University resources implemented to address sexual misconduct — such as the 2011 creation of the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, or the Communication and Consent Educators program — may have begun to effect broader, more cultural change across campus.
And although multiple administrators interviewed expressed “dismay” and “distress” at the prevalence statistics, they also said they are optimistic that this wealth of statistical information — the scale of which they have never had before — will allow them to refine existing programming and develop new approaches in the future.
University Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler said that while the University has previously had access to detailed information about complaints actually brought to the University’s attention, it has never been able to evaluate the attitudes of students who do not report to administrators until now.
Students interviewed said they are glad such detailed statistics on sexual misconduct have been made available to them.
“Regular survey check-ins are so important,” said CCE Corey Malone-Smolla ’16. “I wish we had the same data from five years ago, I would like to see an emphasis on a regular survey at Yale.”
Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said the data is just a starting point for extensive evaluation and self-reflection in the future. In a college-wide email Monday, he noted that Boyd will be hosting a series of open discussions over the next few days for any students who are interested in learning more about the survey data, and he added that masters of residential colleges will also be discussing the topic within their individual communities. A number of meetings have already been held across campus for freshman counselors, the Office for LGBTQ Affairs and CCEs.
“I would ask that the community be equally impatient — because we shouldn’t have to deal with this [problem] — but patient too,” Holloway said. “One thing that’s clear is that we’re committed to doing everything we can to fix this.”