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Penn State Survey Regarding Sexual Assault Indicates Disconnect in Reporting

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Apr 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

Penn State University recently released the results of a survey which asked Penn State students about a variety of gender-based misconduct and crimes on campus, including rape, dating violence, sexual harassment, and stalking.  According to the survey, just over half of Penn State students who experience sexual assault, dating violence, or stalking tell someone about what happened, and a much smaller percentage report sexual assault to Penn State campus officials or police.

Although students who were victims of sexual assault were unlikely to report the matter to authorities, the survey found that victims would tell friends, romantic partners, and family members.  Penn State's Title IX coordinator, Paul Apicella, expressed concern with the survey's findings, because there is a disconnect between Penn State students who report experiencing sexual assault and those who report the assault to others, including authorities.  “One of the things that concerned [Apicella] most is that the reporting numbers are relatively low. Like all good research, [the survey] has given...some answers and data that then begs a hundred different questions that [Penn State will] need to look at.”

The survey used at Penn State was modified from the "Administrator Researcher Campus Climate Collaborative," known as "ARC3."  The "ARC3" survey was developed in response to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.  The Penn State survey asked students about a variety of gender-based campus crimes, including stalking, sexual harassment, dating violence, and rape.  (Although both undergraduate and graduate students participated in the Penn State survey, an analysis of undergraduate responses follows.)  Approximately 11 percent of Penn State undergraduate students reported having been victims of dating violence and 20 percent reported being the victim of stalking.  24 percent of undergraduates reported “unwanted touching, penetration or attempted penetration" (this would include unwanted kissing and groping) and approximately 18 percent reported being the victim of “at least one instance of complete or attempted oral, vaginal or anal sexual assault.” 

As would be expected, female Penn State students were more likely than males to report having experienced sexual assault - More than one-third of female undergraduates reported experiencing unwanted touching, penetration or attempted penetration, and almost 28 percent reported completed or attempted oral, vaginal or anal sexual assault.  Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) students were more likely than the average Penn State student to report being the victim of sexual assault.  Approximately one third of LGBTQ reported unwanted touching, penetration or attempted penetration, and 25 percent reported completed or attempted oral, vaginal or anal sexual assault.

Exclusive of the Penn State survey, there remains a disconnect between those who report being the victims of sexual assault and those who report the assault to others.  Of Penn State undergraduate female students who reported being the victim of stalking, dating violence or sexual assault, 56 percent reported their experience to someone.  The percentage of LGBTQ students who report sexual assault to someone is almost identical to that of female students - Of Penn State undergraduate LGBTQ students who reported being the victim of stalking, dating violence or sexual assault, 58 percent reported their experience to someone.  The percentage of male students who report sexual assault to someone is not surprisingly lower than that of female and LGBTQ students - Of Penn State undergraduate male students who reported being the victim of stalking, dating violence or sexual assault, 37 percent reported their experience to someone. 

When Penn State undergraduate students report being the victims of sexual assault, they are much more likely to report the matter to close friends (86 percent) and roommates (70 percent) than to parents / guardians (17 percent) or another family member (10 percent).  According to the survey, the percentage of undergraduate students who reported being the victims of sexual assault to authorities is extremely low.  Only 2.6 percent reported the matter to Penn State University Police or local police, and only 3 percent report sexual assault to the Penn State Office of Student Conduct.

Damon Sims, Penn State's Vice President for Student Affairs, stated, “I think what we learned is no surprise, and that is this is a significant problem with our student community...[Penn State students] are concerned about [sexual assault] and we must continue to be concerned about it."  Although Sims believes Penn State does well in handling some aspects of campus sexual assault reporting procedures, Sims emphasized that "there clearly are issues we still need to tackle."



About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients nationwide. Mr. Lento represents students and others in disciplinary cases and other proceedings at colleges and universities across the United States. Mr. Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States, and when necessary, he has sought justice on behalf of clients in courts across the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide, and he can help you or your student address school-related issues and concerns anywhere in the United States.

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