2016 Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey

I. Introduction and Overview

In April 2016, Miami University administered its second annual sexual assault climate survey. The 2016 survey was designed, in part, to complement and enhance the information gathered in 2015. The survey’s primary goal is to gather information relevant to our efforts to better support victim/survivors, enhance campus education and awareness, and reduce the prevalence of sexual and interpersonal violence (SIV) within the Miami University community.[1]

In 2015, a sample of 11,000 students was surveyed, and the response rate was roughly 15%. In 2016, all Miami degree-seeking students on all campuses (21,411) were invited to participate; 2,794 students responded, for a 13% response rate. Thus, as with the 2015 survey – and as with many voluntary response surveys – it should not be assumed that those responding in 2016 are representative of the overall Miami University student population. Therefore, while our results are useful and important in that they represent the perceptions and experiences of those responding to the survey, we caution against trying to extrapolate the findings from this group to the broader campus community.

Although our ability to generalize from the 2015 and 2016 surveys is hampered by low response rates, much has been learned from those participating. Importantly, the data collected give us no reason to believe that Miami is immune from the scourge of campus sexual and interpersonal violence. Numerous studies have established the regrettable reality that roughly one-in-five women and as many as six percent of men are sexually assaulted while in college.[2]

In 2015, a team of Miami University faculty and staff members worked together to develop a campus survey from multiple existing sources. Our primary focus was to obtain incidence estimates, as well as perceptions of the general campus climate, university support, bystander propensities, and myth endorsement. Since constructing the 2015 survey in the fall of 2014, national and state interest on the issue of sexual and interpersonal violence on college campuses has increased. As the national spotlight has more sharply focused on this issue, and campus Title IX responsibilities become better understood and executed, two alternative national surveys related to campus SIV have attracted considerable attention: the Administrator-Researcher Campus Climate Collaborative (ARC3) survey and the Association of American Universities (AAU) survey.[3]

At the state level, in 2015 the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) launched the Changing Campus Culture (CCC) initiative. As part of this initiative, Ohio colleges and universities were encouraged to adopt a common set of benchmark questions related to SIV for use in spring 2016 campus climate surveys. This ODHE initiative, along with the new ARC3 survey, provided us with an excellent framework for modifying our 2016 campus climate survey to supplement the data collected and lessons learned from our 2015 climate survey. In particular, by adopting segments of the ARC3 survey, and adding the ODHE benchmark questions, the 2016 survey differed from the 2105 survey in some important and useful ways:

  • Whereas the ARC3 incidence questions largely mirror those used in our 2015 survey, the timeframe for the ARC3 sexual assault incidence questions is “Since coming to this institution…” which provides a broader perspective and thus complements the “In the last twelve months…” timeframe used in our 2015 survey.
  • Regarding point (1), while the shift in timeframe provides additional information, the downside is that the incidence numbers are not directly comparable over the two years (2015 and 2016) of the climate survey. From our perspective, there is more gained than lost, particularly since the low overall response rates across both years create concerns about whether the resulting incidence measures can be generalized to the broader student population.[4] Obviously, the shift in timeframe for 2016 means that all returning students will be responding about potential SIV experiences occurring over a longer time period than in the 2015 survey, which contributes to the higher recorded victimization rates seen in the 2016 survey relative to the 2015 survey.
  • The ARC3 survey includes questions about harassment, stalking, and dating/domestic violence, which were not present in the 2015 survey.
  • The ARC3 survey more deeply examines perpetrator behavior, and – unlike the 2015 survey – specifically asks respondents about their own perpetration behaviors.
  • Both the CCC and ARC3 questions provide the opportunity for more benchmarking outside of Miami.

Miami’s sexual and interpersonal violence response team will continue to closely examine the data from the 2015 and 2016 climate surveys as we work to educate campus about and reduce the incidence of sexual and interpersonal violence. 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, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking are strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated. Toward that end, Miami University has secured two grants for the 2016-17 academic year to assist our prevention, education, and response efforts. In addition, Miami continues to strengthen its partnership with the local advocacy agency Women Helping Women (WHW), and there are plans to have a WHW advocate spend time on each of Miami’s Ohio campuses this academic year. It is important that our students, faculty, and staff impacted by sexual and interpersonal violence know advocacy resources are available, reinforcing that no one has to move through such a challenging process alone. Finally, Miami is adding a new full-time staff member to the Office of Student Wellness who will serve as the Coordinator of Sexual and Interpersonal Violence Prevention and Education Efforts. This staff member will work closely with Miami’s sexual assault response coordinator to enhance Miami’s ongoing, comprehensive campus-wide campaign to raise awareness and reduce the incidence of sexual and interpersonal violence in our community.

We are grateful that the 2015 and 2016 climate surveys have provided us with a better sense of the extent and nature of sexual and interpersonal violence at Miami University. Statistically valid and reliable information is critical to our efforts to educate the community, reduce incidence, and support victim/survivors. Therefore, one focus area in the future will be to identify ways to get a very high response rate from a smaller, largely random sample of the Miami student population. Toward that end, this fall we are working with a Miami graduate class in statistics that will be reviewing and processing our data, and making recommendations for ways to improve and extract more from the survey moving forward.

II. Incidence

In the summary that follows, as in our 2015 report, we will focus on the results for the narrower but more homogeneous community of Oxford undergraduate students. Whereas the 2015 climate survey questions focused on incidents of sexual and interpersonal violence that have occurred in “… the last twelve months, or since coming to Miami” (whichever is most recent) the ARC3 questions adopted for the 2016 survey ask respondents about their experiences “… since coming to Miami.” Thus, the higher 2016 incidence numbers seen in the table below reflect, at least in part, the longer timeframe employed by the 2016 questions. It is also important to note that for Oxford undergraduates, about 15% of the reported incidents of sexual and interpersonal violence occurred while students were “away from campus, at home or somewhere else not associated with Miami.”[5] This serves as a critical reminder that sexual and interpersonal violence is experienced by our students not just within our campus community, but in their home communities as well.

Overall, given the longer time perspective, the incidence numbers for 2016 seem in line with what was recorded in 2015.[6] In 2016, when looking retrospectively over the entire time spent at Miami, women reported a higher rape incidence relative to 2015 when the survey asked only about the last 12 months (or, for first-year students, since arriving at Miami). However, the reported rape incidence rate for men was actually lower in 2016 than 2015, in spite of the longer time period. Given that roughly three-fourths of the student population remained the same over the two survey years, and in light of the longer reporting period in 2016, the direction and magnitude of this change in male rape incidence is surprising.

In the 2016 survey, 271 Oxford undergraduate women reported experiencing a rape during their time at Miami. Given that there were 7,946 undergraduate women enrolled on the Oxford campus at the time, this provides a statistical projection of the lower bound rape incidence for Oxford undergraduate women of 3.4% (=271/7946).[7] In other words, if every Oxford campus undergraduate woman who experienced a rape reported this on our survey, this still suggests that 3.4% of Miami undergraduate women were victim/survivors of rape at the time of our survey, a figure that our community would still view as being unacceptably high. The actual rape incidence rate is likely to be considerably higher than this projected lower bound.

2015 Oxford Undergraduate Incidence
"In the last 12 months...."
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

III. Harassment, Stalking, and Dating/Domestic Violence

By adopting the ARC3 questions, the 2016 climate survey provides us with valuable baseline data on the extent of harassment, stalking and dating/domestic violence at Miami. As with the incidence statistics, the numbers presented below are for the narrow community of Oxford undergraduates of all gender identities.

2016 Oxford Undergraduate Incidence
"Since coming to Miami...."
Reported Incident All Students
n = 1393
Female %
n = 1030
Male %
n = 363
Nonvictim 56.7 49.0 78.5
Unwanted sexual contact 10.4 10.5 10.2
Attempted coercion 2.7 3.3 .8
Coercion 2.7 3.2 1.1
Attempted rape 6.6 7.7 3.6
Rape 21.0 26.3 5.8

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.

Harassment. The survey posed a set of 12 scenarios likely to suggest harassment as perpetrated by other students, and an additional 16 scenarios that could be associated with harassment committed by faculty/staff. Regarding harassment from faculty/staff, the percentage of Oxford undergraduate respondents reporting some form of harassment (across the 16 categories) ranged from a low of 2.7% (“Have you been in a situation in which a faculty member, instructor or staff member treated you badly for refusing to have sex?”) to a high of 35% (Have you been in a situation in which a faculty member, instructor or staff member treated you differently because of your sex?”). Harassment incidence rates were higher than 10% for six of the 16 scenarios, and above 20% in four scenarios.

The 2016 results show a greater propensity for student-on-student harassment. For the 12 scenarios offered to identify this type of behavior, the reported victimization rate for Oxford undergraduates exceeded 10% in all 12 cases; 40% or more for eight scenarios; and over 60% on two. The highest incidence rate (68.1%) related to student-on-student harassment was related to the question “Have you been in a situation in which a student made offensive sexist remarks.”

Stalking. Oxford undergraduates were asked about 10 scenarios related to stalking. Rates of victimization ranged between 2% to 23%, and on five of the ten scenarios the rate exceeded 10%. The highest incidence rate was related to “…(l)eft you unwanted messages (including text or voice messages)?” The lowest rate was on “… (s)neaked into your home or car and did things to scare you by letting you know they had been there?”

The last national survey of stalking behavior among college students indicated that 13% of college women experienced stalking behaviors (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000[8]). In the Ferris State University’s 2016 climate survey using the ARC-3, 34.8% of female and 19.2% of male college students reported experiencing stalking behaviors. One of the pilot schools for the ARC-3, University of Oregon, reported rates of 26% and 19% for female and male students, respectively.

Domestic/Dating Violence. The climate survey included descriptions of six scenarios related to the issue of domestic/dating violence. For the Oxford undergraduates who responded to the survey, victimization rates ranged from a low of 1.5% (“…the person beat me up”) to a high of 14.9% (“…the person can scare me without laying a hand on me”).

These numbers are lower than numbers reported nationally which indicate that 1 in 3 college women report experiences with dating violence (National Coalition against Domestic Violence, 2007[9]). Ferris State University reported 25.6% of female students and 10.6% of male students had experience with one or more dating violence behaviors. University of Oregon reported rates of 14% and 6% for female and male students, respectively.

IV. Perpetration

The climate survey in 2016 included a range of questions aimed at learning more about the nature and extent of perpetrator behavior in our community. Victim/survivors were asked questions about the perpetrator, and all respondents were specifically asked about their own (potentially inappropriate) behavior.[10]

Victim description of perpetrators. When victim/survivors were asked about the perpetrator of the sexual violence, about 90% indicated that the perpetrator was a man (and about 10% a woman). Almost 80% of the reported perpetrators were either acquaintances (32.7%), friends (18.3%), or former/current romantic partner (26.7%); 21.7% were strangers. In 72.1% of the cases, the perpetrator was reported to be a student. For those who could answer the question, 81.3% indicated that the perpetrator was using alcohol (68.6%), drugs (1.8%), or both (10.8%). About 30% of victims reported that they had used no alcohol or drugs at the time of the incident. Importantly, only 4.3% of victim/survivors indicated that they reported the offense to a campus or community authority – 95.3% of victim/survivors indicated that they chose not report.

Perpetration. With respect to the categories of sexual and interpersonal violence, measuring the most severe form of perpetration in each instance[11], overall Oxford undergraduates self-reported a 2.2% perpetration rate for unwanted touching; and less than 1% for all of the other categories. Men self-reported an aggregate 6.45% perpetration rate, with 2.15% of men self-reporting that they had engaged in unwanted anal, oral, or vaginal penetration in their time at Miami. Even assuming all respondents were perfectly truthful in their answers, low perpetration rates are not incompatible with high victimization rates if – as the literature increasingly suggests – a small number of chronic, repeat offenders are responsible for most of the sexual and interpersonal violence that occurs on college campuses.

With respect to the 10 questions related to stalking, survey respondents reported transgression rates ranging from roughly 6/10th of 1% (“…(l)eft strange or potentially threatening items for them to find) to a high of 6.1% (“…(l)eft unwanted messages for them”). In six of the 10 stalking scenarios, the self-reported perpetration rate was less than 2.4%.

Finally, information on dating/domestic violence was also collected in the 2016 climate survey. On the six queried dimensions of partner violence, the reported perpetration rates ranged between a low of roughly .5% (one-half percent)(“…I beat up the person”) to a high of 4.9% (“I pushed, grabbed, or shook…”).

IV. Summary/Reflections

Miami University is committed to maintaining a healthy and safe living, learning, and working environment for all students, faculty, and staff. The 2015 and 2016 climate surveys have provided us with initial data regarding our current campus culture, as well direction as to ongoing educational, awareness, and prevention efforts. Sexual and interpersonal violence education, awareness, and prevention are crucial in order to change our campus culture to be more inclusive, respectful, and to create a campus that will not tolerate sexual and interpersonal violence.

[1] It is possible that victim/survivors of sexual and interpersonal violence may be more likely to respond to the climate survey – thereby biasing the recorded victimization rates upward – we are unaware of any scientific evidence that supports this position http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-j-freyd/examining-denial-tactics-were-victims-overrepresented-in-the-aau-survey-of-sexual-violence-on-college-campuses_b_8216008.html. Of course, it is also possible that victim/survivors are less likely to respond in that survey responses may have an unintended effect of “re-victimizing” survivors.

[2] See, for example http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf.

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/professor-group-fighting-campus-rape_us_55e5120de4b0aec9f35459d9

[4] Still, the incidence numbers – even if biased upward – still suggest unacceptably high incidence rates, even after applying the most conservative adjustment.

[5] Two other important points about the incidence figures should be noted. One, non-victims are those who respond “0 times” to all 25 questions/situations that map into the five victimization categories. Two, the five incidence categories above were created to be mutually exclusive and exhaustive – those who experienced multiple incidents were counted only as a victim in the most severe category reported.

[6] Results are not provided here for transgender and non-identifying respondents because of small sample sizes. Research indicates that transgender victim/survivor rates are higher than for those who are female identified http://www.ovc.gov/pubs/forge/sexual_numbers.html.

[7] This also assumes no false reporting.

[8] https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/182369.pdf

[9] http://www.ncadv.org/

[10] Again, the figures in this section are based upon the survey responses from Oxford undergraduates.

[11] Resulting in the same mutually exclusive and exhaustive categories as reported in the victim incidence statistics.