Kaifeng Wu

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.”

  • sy

    Why did victims consider 60-95% of the sexual misconduct incidents not serious enough to report? Probably because as sexual misconduct is defined in the survey, nearly 100% of female students are victims of sexual harassment, nonconsensual sexual contact, and/or intimate partner violence, and nearly 100% of male students are guilty. Sexual harassment includes inappropriate or offensive jokes or comments. Nonconsensual sexual contact includes rape, along with kissing and touching over her clothes. Intimate partner violence includes deciding where she goes (if only 20% of the time, and she decides where he goes 80% of the time). A useful finding: about 5% of female students think that they are very likely to experience sexual assault. If 20% have been sexually assaulted, that percentage would be about 20% + 5%.

    Despite all the effort and money, the survey did not ask (or did not want to ask) how many female students have been raped or avoided attempted rape. The survey did not ask the place and time that sexual assault, rape or attempted rape occurred, so that those circumstances might be limited. Instead, the survey reports that (under 100% of?) female students have experienced an unconsented, forced or drunk kiss or touch or sexual comment, and that the unwanted male behavior (by considerably less than all of them?) is dealt with through self-help including, but not limited to, a slap to the face, rather than a complaint and hearing.

    • SY15

      @SY–Thought I’d respond to your comments, because there is a wealth of information in the report that answers a lot of the questions and concerns you raise.

      To address your second paragraph–the survey did actually ask students of all gender identities if they had been victims of nonconsensual penetration (rape). The statistics for undergraduate women reporting penetration/oral sex by force and incapacitation can be found in Figure 2 of the Yale University 2015 AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct Report (pg. 4), which states that 20.4% of women at Yale have been victims of nonconsensual penetration by their senior year. This to me is an incredibly alarming statistic.

      With regards to the reason as to why victims did not view sexual misconduct/assault as serious enough to report, if you look at the data more closely you will find that it’s not because of the way sexual misconduct is defined in the survey (this isn’t just instances of people not reporting a drunk kiss). The report states that “For penetrative acts involving force, 65.4 percent did not think the incident was serious enough to report” (pg. 18).

      65.4% of people who were raped with the use of force did not think this was serious enough to report.

      To me, this isn’t an issue of defining sexual misconduct in such a way that “100% of male students are guilty,” as you claim. This represents a serious issue of how rape and assault is trivialized in our larger society and on campus, and how we live in a culture in which sexual violence against women is normalized to a degree that even nonconsensual penetration with the use of force is viewed as every day, not-serious-enough-to-report activity.

      If you have the time, I really recommend you read the report in its entirety. It contains a wealth of information and is incredibly nuanced and thorough in explaining how types of sexual behaviors are defined and what type of behaviors contribute to which statistics.

      Finally, I would ask you just to be careful about accidentally shifting the burden of any type of unwanted sexual contact (yes, even sexual harassment) on the victim. Stating that women should slap a man in the face (i.e. handle a situation herself in the moment) instead of filing a complaint, or stating how ridiculous it is that such high numbers of women claim to be victims (because how could 100% of men be guilty!) shifts the burden on the recipient of this unwanted sexual behavior, which I think is something we should all take pains not to do. As I stated above, I think this helps contribute to a culture where women begin to internalize all types of sexual harassment and violence as “not that serious,” and the results of that internalization are clear in this survey.

      • branford73

        I will read the full report when I can get out of the avalanche of work responsibilities I have at the moment. But based on the kinds of kids admitted to Yale these days, it’s a bit hard to believe that sexual misconduct there is so much worse than at say Arizona State, Florida State or Ohio State. I wonder if Yale’s stuidents are more sensitized to offense than at these other places. I don’t know and I don’t know if it were true if that would be a good thing or not. Over 40 years out and not being able to help the problemd I can on be mildly glad I am not an administrator there, or even a student.

        • SY15

          Definitely read the report–from my perspective, the salient difference between the Yale responses and the other schools who completed the survey is level of response; approx 50% of Yale students completed the survey, which is more than double the average of other schools. This perhaps suggests that the problem is worse at other places, but being under reported.
          The survey gave such precise definitions for each type of sexual misconduct it addresses, that I don’t personally see how Yale students could be more sensitized to offense. Check out pg. 12 for the definitions–it’s hard to imagine statistics regarding violence between intimate partners, forced penetration, unwanted sexual touching, etc. could just be Yale students being oversensitive

      • concerned

        I can interpret “not serious enough” to mean a victim is not interested in encountering the systemic blow back that we have seen served up by Yale via previously published accounts of actual formal complaints in the YDN. Not serious enough to derail a semester or more to see the conclusion reached that a slick perp/predator is “not responsible” by means of affiliated “non affiliates” and other clever procedural shifts that the victim and community can do nothing about due to “secrecy”. Yale might just as well hire those “experts” who keep child molesters out of jail.

  • 100wattlightbulb

    Start with this: Quit getting wasted.

    • SY15

      I really hope you’re trolling.

      By senior year, 20.4% of female undergraduates report being the victim of nonconsensual penetration by force or incapacitation. 55.1% of all students at Yale have experienced sexual harassment. 29.5% of female graduate students and 32.8% of other gendered graduate students report being sexually harassed by their professors. 65.4% of women who were victims of penetration by force did not think their rape was serious enough to report. And I could go on. For a long time.

      But rather than address these challenges and systemic problems, sure–let’s just tell the victims to drink less. Awesome.

      • 100wattlightbulb

        Funny you assumed I was speaking ONLY to the victims. “Stop getting wasted” applies equally. And what do expect from this “anything goes” mentality that especially permeates college campuses? You can’t have it both ways.

        • ldffly

          One might also add “Stop having random sex”; “Stop believing that it has no consequences.”

          • SY15

            Do you mean that having random sex means that a reasonable consequence is sexual assault? Does that not seem problematic to you?
            If a man or women engages in casual sex, he/she should expect consequences such as sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, stalking, or rape? Really?

        • SY15

          So if we get rid of alcohol, we won’t have any more rapists?

          Not sure what you mean by asking what else do we expect from an “anything goes” mentality, but sounds dangerously like you are suggesting in a sexually liberated world where adults consume alcohol, we have to live with huge instances of sexual assault. I hope that’s not what you meant, because that’s shirking responsibility from fixing the problem and bordering on blaming the victims.

      • theburren

        The key there being “by force or incapacitation.” How do people become “incapacitated” as Yale defines it? By getting drunk. We don’t have the breakdown of “by force” and “by incapacitation,” but I’m willing to bet that the vast majority are by incapacitation. Leading us to the conclusion that getting drunk puts yourself at risk. And I don’t think it’s victim-blaming to say that it’s probably not a good idea to put yourself at risk.

        • SY15

          We actually do have the breakdown of by force and by incapacitation–is anyone actually reading the report?

          And while it may not be victim blaming, it is certainly shifting the burden of responsibility to the victim. It’s not his/her fault, but he/she needs to be better at not putting him/herself at risk. If you’re drinking, you’re putting yourself at risk so you should not be getting drunk–is this really the message we should be taking away? Not we need to have campus conversations about consent, not we need to do more to prevent sexual assault from happening and punishing it when it does?

          The Yale community just received really sobering (no pun intended) results about the high prevalence of sexual assault and harassment on campus, particularly among female and other gendered students. I don’t see how “quit getting wasted” is what we should be taking away from this. Are the approx 30% of female and other gendered graduate students being sexually harassed by their professors simply drunk? By shifting the discussion to the victims responsibility to protect themselves by being sober, we avoid having a much more important conversation about institutionalized sexism and a culture that allows for the pervasiveness of sexual assault.

        • SY15

          Also, incapacitated includes not just being drunk, but also being asleep or being drugged (more can be found in the definition section of the report)