17% of Female MIT Students Say They Have Been Sexually Assaulted

October 28, 2014

About 17 percent of undergraduate women who responded to a survey at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they have been sexually assaulted, but only 5 percent say they ever reported the crime. Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart said the findings, detailed in a report released by the university on Monday, highlight a challenge in sexual assault prevention and education on campus. (The survey defined assault as "unwanted sexual behaviors involving the use of force, physical threat, or incapacitation.")

Students seem to have differing ideas on what might constitute an assault or how serious of a crime it is, Barnhart said. More than 70 percent of students who did not report the "unwanted sexual experiences" said they didn't believe the misconduct was serious enough to report. MIT began distributing its survey in April, prior to the U.S. Department of Education urging colleges to conduct similar "climate surveys." Legislation announced by eight senators in July would require colleges to undertake such surveys. "What we find from the survey is that we need more education in our community," Barnhart said in a press call. "That's exactly what we're positioning ourselves to do."

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