2015 Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey

I. Introduction and Overview

Miami University is committed to maintaining a healthy and safe learning, living, and working environment and to creating an environment that promotes responsibility, dignity, and respect in matters of sexual and interpersonal conduct. Sexual assault, sexual misconduct, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking (i.e., Title IX offenses) are strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated.

Our commitment to improve education, enhance prevention, and increase support related to sexual violence requires that we better understand the local Miami University and Oxford environment.  During academic year 2015-2016 an ad hoc group representing multiple university divisions (student affairs; the President’s office; academic affairs) worked cooperatively to develop a locally focused Sexual Assault Climate Survey. This initiative closely aligns with the recommendations of Miami’s January 2013 Sexual Assault Response Task Force Report, and also serves as a response to the April 2014 Not Alone report issued by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.

In April of 2015, 11,000 randomly selected Miami students from all academic levels and all campuses were asked to complete the Sexual Assault Climate Survey. The survey we selected is a modified version of the one recommended in the White House’s Not Alone materials. A total of 1,655 students responded, which is a 15% response rate. As with most voluntary response surveys, it should not be assumed that those responding are randomly selected. Thus, while our results are useful and important in that they represent the perceptions and experiences of the survey respondents, we would caution against trying to extrapolate the findings from this group to the broader campus community.

The summary below focuses on the results obtained from the 1,174 Miami Oxford undergraduates, which constitute the largest proportion in the total sample (71% of the 1,655 total respondents). This stratification is useful in that the regional campus and graduate student environments may differ in significant ways from the Miami Oxford undergraduate climate.  It should be noted, however, that while the sampling method was random, survey responses may not be.  The campus environment is likely to differ across important dimensions such as race and gender identity, for example, and groups who are more negatively impacted by sexual violence may have different survey response rates.  Moreover, trying to examine some of these important differences is made even more challenging by small resulting sample sizes as one more closely parses the limited data.

The survey asked students about their perceptions of campus climate; institutional crisis response; university leadership, policies, and reporting; campus sexual assault Spring 2015 Miami University Sexual Assault Survey Report (November 11, 2015), page 1 procedures and education; bystander interventions; incidence of actual or attempted sexual assault; and sexual assault myths.  We are reviewing and discussing these results in an effort to enhance our sexual and interpersonal violence education and prevention efforts, improve our processes and procedures related to sexual misconduct, and provide better support to those impacted by sexual and interpersonal violence.

II. Incidence

Sexual assault is an unfortunate reality on college campuses across the nation, and it is critical that we get the clearest possible sense of its prevalence on our campus to inform our prevention, education, and response efforts.  An increasingly broad array of studies provide a consistent and troubling picture of this national epidemic:  roughly twenty percent of women will likely experience an attempted or completed sexual assault while in college.[1] Discussions about this one-in-five statistic typically focus around sample response rates, size and diversity of sample pools, and the breadth and consistency of sexual assault definitions. For the Miami survey, respondents report their experiences over the last twelve months or since arriving at Miami, whichever is more recent[2] across five categories of sexual assault: unwanted sexual contact[3], attempted coercion[4], coercion[5], attempted rape[6], and rape[7].

While the Miami University campus and broader Oxford community are generally considered “safe,”[8] the survey results starkly underscore the reality that Miami students are experiencing sexual assaults at rates comparable with the national statistics.

As seen in Table 1, overall, 33.9% of Miami students (42.4% of females; 19.1% of males) report experiencing one or more of the types of sexual assault or misconduct defined in our survey.  In calculating prevalence rates, students who reported multiple violations (either within or across categories) were considered to have experienced a violation in the most severe category (for example: someone responding that they had experienced both attempted coercion and rape were counted in the rape category).[9] Moreover in the past 12 months, 15.4% of women and 7.4% of men reported having experienced rape, with an additional 8.4% of women and 2.3% of men experienced attempted rape. These statistics are clearly at odds with the common impression of the relative safety of the Oxford/Miami environment, and with the number of reports made to the University last year. This tension may reflect one of the complexities of the sexual violence problem – it is a crime that is often perpetrated by friends, acquaintances, partners, or ex-partners, and perhaps (at least in part) because of this, often goes unreported.

With respect to location, 267 survey respondents identified the location of 334 of the incidents reported in Table 1. The results indicate that about one-third of these incidents occurred on-campus (33.5%), 48.5% happened off-campus, and 3.9% were on a study abroad or other Miami-sponsored activity. The remainder (14.1%) occurred “away from campus or somewhere else not associated with Miami.” It is important to note that the location of the incident plays no role in Miami’s support for victims of Spring 2015 Miami University Sexual Assault Survey Report (November 11, 2015), page 2 sexual misconduct – we are committed to supporting all victim/survivors who choose to come forward.

Table 1. Sexual Assault Prevalence Across Gender Categories
Reported Incident All Students
n = 819
Female %
n = 521
Male %
n = 298
Nonvictim 65.8 57.5 80.8
Unwanted sexual contact 8.5 10.2 5.7
Attempted coercion 4.2 5.8 1.3
Coercion 2.6 2.7 2.4
Attempted rape 6.3 8.5 2.4
Rape 12.6 15.4 7.4

Note: There are significant differences in prevalence across male and female students; columns sum to ~100%; 26.7% of reported sexual victimization experiences involved incapacitation due to drugs or alcohol.

Victim Support

Recognizing that our campus is not immune to the national problem of sexual assault, we must ensure that victims are aware of and able to avail themselves of campus and victim support services. While 65% (70% male; 62.5% female) of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they would “know where to get help” if they or a friend were sexually assaulted, the fact that roughly 20% of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that they would know where to get help speaks to the need for more campus- wide and community education.[10] Whereas we are concerned that roughly 44% (35% male, 48% female) of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that they “understood Miami’s formal procedures to address complaints of sexual assault,” we feel it is critical that more students know where to turn for help and support; the formal procedures are reviewed in detail with all victims who seek support from Miami’s sexual assault response coordinator.

Even if support resources and reporting options are widely understood, this survey reinforces the fact that for myriad reasons some sexual assault victims choose not to report the incident(s). This underreporting phenomenon could reflect, in part, the victim’s/survivor’s perception of the degree to which their report will be handled with the appropriate degree of confidentiality, concern, and commitment to respond.

The survey includes questions that address these issues, and the responses are important to our work in creating an environment in which more victims/survivors feel Spring 2015 Miami University Sexual Assault Survey Report (November 11, 2015), page 3 comfortable reporting. For example, respondents report that they feel moderately or very likely that the university would: “keep knowledge of the report limited to those who need to know to respond properly” (83%), “support the person making the report” (77%), take corrective action “against the offender” (69%) and “to address the factors that may have led to the sexual assault” (65%). Likewise, over 83% believe that the university would take a sexual assault report seriously, and over 76% believe that the university would support the person making the report.[11] While 5% or fewer answered “not at all likely” to these latter two questions, it remains a priority for us to research the environmental factors that may make victims less likely to report and/or seek support after an incident. We are committed to offering support to every Miami University affiliated victim/survivor of sexual assault.

The importance of reporting extends also into the social and other networks of the victims/survivors and perpetrators of sexual assault. We seek to increase positive bystander intervention across campus with regards to both reporting and intervention/prevention (more on this latter point below in the Education section). The importance of bystander/network reporting is underscored by two results from the survey. Over 69% of the respondents feel that other Miami students would be “very or moderately” likely to (i) “allow personal loyalties to affect reporting of sexual assault,” and (ii) “choose not to report sexual assault out of concern they or others will be punished for infractions, such as underage drinking.” Regarding this latter perception, Miami University has already adopted amnesty policies related to both alcohol use and sexual misconduct. Thus, the survey indicates that there is important work to be done in educating the campus on these policies.

The survey responses also clearly suggest that we can and should expect more from our students with respect to reporting. In spite of the skepticism regarding the perceived willingness of other Miami students to report, 95% of respondents indicated that they themselves are at least moderately likely to confront a friend if “I heard rumors that he/she forced sex on someone” and over 91% indicated they would “report a friend that committed a rape.” Thus, there is a critical gap that deserves further scrutiny between our students’ claimed willingness to “do the right thing” and their much lower confidence in the choices of their peers.

III. Education/Prevention

Although we are committed to supporting all victims of sexual violence, ultimately we strive to reduce the prevalence of sexual violence so that no one is a victim of this crime. Our prevention efforts are linked to sexual and interpersonal violence education, prevention campaigns, awareness efforts, and bystander training. Miami University students are expected to be engaged both inside and outside of the classroom. This expectation is reflected, for example, in our institutional strategic goal that “95% of Miami students will have two or more co-curricular experiences before they graduate.”[12]

The recommendations of Miami’s 2013 Sexual Assault Response Taskforce resulted in a campus wide initiative to communicate and embrace our shared university values.[13] Our institutional values acknowledge our differences and recognize them as a source of our collective strength. Our values also emphasize the importance of reciprocal respect and support as we each pursue our individual objectives within a community that shares a significantly overlapping and highly consonant set of goals.

As part of this initiative to communicate and embrace our community expectations and shared values, since academic year 2014-15 all new members of Greek organizations, scholarship athletes, and students taking the transition to college course (UNV 101) have all received sexual assault education and bystander (known locally as “Step-Up”) training, and other students in all class years have participated in these programs voluntarily. While these efforts continue, since fall 2014, all incoming Miami students receive sexual assault education prior to arriving on campus, and most of the incoming class has additional sexual assault and bystander training through the UNV 101 course.

The survey results are valuable here, as they indicate that we need to further enhance our student educational efforts, and to ensure that they are making an impact on students.[14] While every incoming student received education on this topic through Orientation, HAVEN on-line training, and other initiatives, only 76% recall receiving any training. Overall, more than half (55%) of the survey respondents indicate that they have received some training/education in sexual assault prevention, but we are committed to increasing this proportion to 100%. Of course education is not enough, as the quality of the education is also critical to our prevention efforts. Thus, it is important to note that of those who recall receiving this education, only 6.5% felt that it was “not useful at all’” and almost 74% found the education to be at least moderately useful.

Education is particularly important across two dimensions: to identify and dispel myths and to heighten awareness while encouraging prevention/intervention.

Rape myths. Students completing the survey were asked to respond to a series of rape myths, and the results were mixed, and show places where we need to redouble our efforts. Given the university’s adoption of an affirmative definition of consent in July 2015, we are concerned that over 12% of students agreed or strongly agreed that “If a person doesn’t say “no,” they can't claim rape.” Likewise, it is well known that alcohol use is positively associated with sexual assault. Although a victim/survivor is never responsible for the assault, even if they had been consuming alcohol, about 20% or respondents agree or strongly agree that “If someone is raped while they are drunk, they are at least somewhat responsible for what happened.” Responses here—and elsewhere in the survey—differed significantly by gender, with 32% of men agreeing but only 12% of women, and this information will be quite useful for our educational initiatives. More encouraging, only about 4% (2.3%) agreed or strongly agreed that it should not be considered rape unless there is verbal protest (physical resistance).

Awareness and prevention/intervention. Miami students do seem to recognize that sexual violence is a problem on our campus. After awareness, the critical issue Spring 2015 Miami University Sexual Assault Survey Report (November 11, 2015), page 5 becomes whether students have the tools and personal commitment to confront the problem in themselves and others. In response to the question “I do not think sexual violence is a problem on this campus,” on a scale of 1 (Not at all true) to 6 (Very much true), the average response is 2.7, which suggests moderate disagreement, with almost 28% responding “not at all true.” Using the same scale, students also disagree that “doing something about sexual violence is solely the job of “campus authorities” (mean of 2.1) and weakly agree (mean of 4.0) that “I think I can do something about sexual violence.”

On questions related to personal intervention, students were asked how likely (1=not at all likely; 4=very likely) they would be to adopt a series of behaviors in response to fourteen scenarios that could contribute to or reflect sexual misconduct. Most significantly, over 96% report that they would be moderately or very likely to “get help and resources for a friend who tells me he/she has been raped.” In all fourteen scenarios, over 60% of students express a willingness (moderately or very likely) to intervene positively when observing concerning scenarios, with the weakest instance being “express my discomfort if someone makes a joke about a woman’s body.”

Through a series of fourteen questions, Miami students were asked about their own behavior either as a potential perpetrator, or as a positive bystander. On the perpetrator questions, students indicate that they are moderately to extremely likely to “ask for consent … even in a long term relationship” (82%); “stop sexual activity when asked to … (93%); stop having sex if …he/she says to stop” (99%); and “(d)ecide not to have sex with a partner if (s)he is drunk” (89%). Two of the important bystander questions were already reviewed above, as our students report a high willingness to confront or report a friend who is believed to have committed a sexual assault. Other questions affirm a general willingness to intervene to prevent an assault (93% are at least moderately likely to “(c)heck in with my friend who looks drunk when (s)he goes to a room with someone else at a party”) and/or challenge demeaning or harassing behaviors (80% would “challenge a friend who uses insulting words to describe girls”).

Finally, over 29% of respondents indicate that they have actually “observed a situation that you believe was, or could have led to, a sexual assault” in the past academic year. Of those who report having been in this situation, 46% said that they “asked the person who appeared to be at risk if they needed help.” Only 4.5% decided to “take no action.” Clearly, Miami students indicate a general willingness to be positive bystanders in situations related to sexual assault, and we must continue to give them that the tools they need to be more effective.

IV. Conclusions and Next Steps

We will continue to review the survey results and share this report with partners across campus and within the community. For example, the results can help inform the work of the Step UP! Program (as well as other sexual and inter-personal violence programming) housed in the Office of Student Wellness. This information will also inform the work of the Women's Center (for use in educational efforts), student Spring 2015 Miami University Sexual Assault Survey Report (November 11, 2015), page 6 organizations (to enhance awareness activities), and Sexual and Inter-personal Violence Prevention and Response (SIVPR) group (for gap analysis and decisions related to additional and/or enhanced education/training).

It is critical to our sexual violence prevention, education and response efforts that we continue to regularly survey the student body in an effort to better understand the Miami community and local environment. At the same time, we must be aware that survey results can only be one part of a broader campaign to understand this critical issue. Adopting a more national survey may be useful in allowing us to understand our relative strengths and weaknesses compared to other campuses. Our commitment to this work will continue until every victim feels supported and empowered, and until every member in our community embraces the same goal – consistent with our institutional values – that sexual violence can and must be eliminated from our campus It is on us, students, faculty, and staff, to end sexual and interpersonal violence at Miami University.


[1] See, for example https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/06/15/new-survey-finds-1-5-college-women-have-experienced- sexual-assault, and http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/local/2015/06/12/1-in-5-women-say-they-were-violated/

[2] Or, “since you began at Miami (whichever is more recent).”

[3] Has anyone [overwhelmed you with arguments about sex or continual pressure for sex in order to/threatened to physically harm you or someone close to you in order to/used physical force (such as holding you down) in order to/when you were incapacitated (e.g., by drugs or alcohol) and unable to object or consent has anyone] fondle, kiss, or touch you sexually when you indicated you didn’t want to?

[4] Has anyone overwhelmed you with arguments about sex or continual pressure for sex in order to try and have sexual intercourse with you (but it did not happen) when you indicated you didn’t want to?

[5] Has anyone overwhelmed you with arguments about sex or continual pressure for sex in order to [succeed in making you have sexual intercourse/ make you do oral sex or have it done to you/make you have anal sex or penetrate you with a finger or objects] when you indicated you didn’t want to?

[6] Has anyone [threatened to physically harm you or someone close to you in order to/ used physical force (such as holding you down) in order to/when you were incapacitated (e.g., by drugs or alcohol) and unable to object or consent has anyone] try to have sexual intercourse with you (but it did not happen) when you indicated you didn’t want to?

[7] Has anyone [threatened to physically harm you or someone close to you in order to/ used physical force (such as holding you down) in order to/when you were incapacitated (e.g., by drugs or alcohol) and unable to object or consent has anyone] [succeed in making you have sexual intercourse /make you do oral sex or have it done to you/ make you have anal sex or penetrate you with a finger or objects] when you indicated you didn’t want to?

[8] Over 93% of survey respondents strongly agreed or agreed that “I feel safe on this campus.”

[9] This could be a citation for the Revised Sexual Experiences Scoring Framework.

[10] The other roughly 12% neither agreed nor disagreed or responded “don’t know.”

[11] These figures represent the percentage of respondents selecting “very likely” or likely.”

[12] http://miamioh.edu/2020plan/university-level-plan/unifying-goal/index.html

[13] Adopted by Miami’s Board of Trustees in 2002, the values statement reads: “Miami University is a scholarly community whose members believe that a liberal education is grounded in qualities of character as well as of intellect. We respect the dignity of other persons, the rights and property of others, and the right of others to hold and express disparate beliefs. We believe in honesty, integrity, and the importance of moral conduct. We defend the freedom of inquiry that is the heart of learning and combine that freedom with the exercise of judgment and the acceptance of personal responsibility.”

[14] The survey clearly indicates that the educational gap for graduate students is larger than that for undergraduates.