2017 Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey

I. Introduction and Overview

In the fall of 2016, multiple university offices met to consolidate three critical health-related surveys into a single instrument. The intent of this new aggregate survey—dubbed The Miami Student Health Survey—was to ask all Miami students a set of core questions from three critical health areas: alcohol, sexual and interpersonal violence (SIV), and mental health (each “core” question set was determined by those most closely associated with each respective survey). Then, after completing the core set of questions, each student would then be tracked randomly into a set of extended additional questions from one of the three areas (alcohol, SIV, mental health).

The goal is to repeat this survey annually, and to have 100% student participation so that all student voices are heard, and the validity of the data is maximized. Toward this goal of universal student participation, in 2017 the president’s office provided an incentive to all students to complete the survey—a printable coupon redeemable for $3 toward a drink at King Cafe. In addition, the provost’s office agreed to allow willing faculty to use class time to administer the survey; Dr. Rose Marie Ward was instrumental in facilitating this effort. While every full-time Oxford undergraduate was invited via email to complete the survey, the Health Survey was also formally administered in roughly 90 classes over the March 3–March 15 period; most classes allowed for 20-25 minutes for survey completion. Students who failed to complete the survey during the allotted class time had an opportunity to return to and complete the survey on their own time. Because of concern over the use of class time, in every case the survey questions were limited to those core set of essential questions; no student was prompted to answer an additional set of custom questions from the three areas.

This is the third consecutive year that a Miami survey was administered that included questions about sexual and interpersonal violence (SIV). This was also the second year that the survey included state benchmark questions on the topic identified by the Ohio Department of Higher Education, although those benchmark questions have changed over the last two years. In 2017, only the “essential” questions from each of the three health areas were administered. As a result, the SIV questions consisted almost exclusively of the same set of ARC3 (Administrator-Researcher Campus Climate Collaborative) prevalence questions deployed in the 2016 survey along with the 2017 Ohio Department of Higher Education benchmark questions.

Of the 15,536 students invited to participate, 4,212 Miami students responded to some or all of the survey questions, for a response rate of 27.1%. For the 1,891 respondents for which we have the relevant information, the survey was done in class in 1,203 (64%) cases (it was completed outside of class in 36% [688] of these cases). The report below will provide a brief overview of the most significant 2017 survey results related to SIV.

II. Prevalence

The prevalence of various types of sexual and interpersonal violence are obviously a primary focus of any campus climate survey. In each of the last three years, Miami students have been asked about whether they had experienced any of the following types of sexual violence: rape, attempted rape, coercion, attempted coercion, or unwanted sexual contact. In 2015, students were asked about their experiences “...in the last 12 months, or since coming to Miami (whichever is most recent).” In 2016, the Miami survey adopted the longer-run perspective used by the national ARC3 survey, asking students about incidents “...since coming to Miami;” this longer perspective was maintained in the 2017 survey.

Table 1 provides prevalence figures for the full-time Oxford students who responded to the relevant survey questions, and Table 2 summarizes the results over the last three surveys; thus, in Table 2, it is important to note that the 2015 survey asked only about experiences in the last 12 months, or since coming to Miami. It is also important to note that for Oxford undergraduates, over 13% 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.” 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.

Table 1 - 2017
Reported Incident Overall %
Female %
Male %
Nonvictim 73.5 67.1 84.8
Unwanted sexual contact 8.5 9.4 6.9
Attempted coercion 1.7 2.4 0.5
Coercion 1.4 1.8 0.5
Attempted rape 3.8 5.2 1.3
Rape 11.1 14.1 5.9
Table 2 - Overall %
Reported Incident 2017
Nonvictim 73.5 56.7 65.8
Unwanted sexual contact 8.5 10.4 8.5
Attempted coercion 1.7 2.7 4.2
Coercion 1.4 2.7 2.6
Attempted rape 3.8 6.6 6.3
Rape 11.1 21.0 12.6

The 26.5% victimization rate in 2017 reinforces what we have learned in our surveys of the prior two years—that Miami students report rates of sexual and interpersonal violence similar to what is observed on other college campuses nationally. It should also be noted that these prevalence statistics do not reflect the total number of incidents of sexual and interpersonal violence that have been experienced. As in prior years, the statistics reveal only the most significant or most serious reported experience, irrespective of whether there were multiple infractions and/or occasions.

Prevalence statistics would not be expected to change dramatically between 2016 and 2017, since the student populations have such significant overlap. The large jump in non-victim status in 2017 and the decline in rape prevalence illustrates, then, the reality that the statistics will be sensitive to the selection of the survey respondents; thus, the results are best interpreted as reflecting the experiences of the 27% of the Miami students who responded to the survey. Still, assuming that all respondents were truthful, we can derive lower-bound estimates of the proportion of Miami full-time undergraduates who have experienced (in their time at Miami) some type of sexual and interpersonal violence. There were 321 reported female rape victims in our sample, and 8,600 Oxford females overall (3.7%), and 76 male rape victims (out of 8,381 male students; for a lower bound prevalence rate of .9% for Oxford males).

The ODHE Benchmark questions included several that directly asked respondents about their experiences since attending college. Miami’s reported rate of:

  • sexual harassment (16.69%) was lower than the Ohio university main campuses average (29.77);
  • stalking (5.65) was very similar to the Ohio university main campuses average (5.10);
  • non-consensual sexual contact (20.38) was higher than the Ohio university main campuses average (12.32);
  • non-consensual sexual intercourse (4.77) was below the Ohio university main campuses average (5.78); and
  • intimate partner violence (4.39) was lower than the Ohio university main campuses average (6.47)

III. Other Results and Benchmarks

MIami’s education and prevention efforts have put a significant emphasis on training over the last two years. All new incoming Miami students are required to take an online course on sexual and interpersonal violence (called “Haven”). In addition, all students enrolled in UNV 101, all new members of Greek organizations, and scholarship athletes receive additional training as part of the StepUp! bystander program delivered by the HAWKS Peer Health Educators within Miami’s Wellness office. Almost 74% of Miami students report having received training (of those who answered the question, almost 79% reported receiving training), which is far higher than the Ohio statewide ”All University Main Campuses” average of 56.38% reported by the ODHE Changing Campus Culture report.

Among the learning objectives of the training are to educate students about where to make a report and where to get help if they or someone they know experiences an incident of sexual or interpersonal violence. Over 86% of the students responding to the question indicated that they were either a little, somewhat or very knowledgeable about where to report an incident, and over 88% answered similarly on knowing where to get help.

While only 3.7% of victims indicate that they reported the incident to police or university officials, it does not seem to be for lack of trust in the university. For example, over 68% of students responding report that they believe campus officials would take a report of sexual misconduct very or extremely seriously, and this proportion rises to over 89% when adding those who select “somewhat” seriously. Similar numbers regarding how likely it is that campus officials would support a person making a report are 64.8% and 86.3%. Because of the small number of reports, it is not possible to discern whether there is a pattern between propensity to report and confidence in the university (such as, “If someone were to report an incident of sexual misconduct on campus, campus officials would take the report seriously.”) . Of note, of the 229 victims who responded to the question, more than half—127—indicated that they told someone, underscoring the importance that all students have knowledge about reporting and support resources, a point that is made at Miami’s summer orientation with all incoming students.

IV. Summary and Next Steps

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 baseline data regarding our current campus culture, and provided direction as to how to design and target 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.

The 2017 Miami Student Health Survey included questions related to three of the biggest challenges to student success on our campus and many others—alcohol misuse, sexual and interpersonal violence, and mental health. The number and (perhaps) quality (from a data validity perspective) of responses to this survey was bolstered by our institutional commitment to learning more about these issues—and the relationship and interactions between these issues—in our own local environment, as illustrated by the incentives provided by the president’s office and the provost's assistance in allowing the administration of the survey during class time. This commitment will be sustained and redoubled, as will the importance of the data, as Miami strategically attacks these issues through the emerging Healthy Miami initiative.

Currently, the data and results have been shared with the offices and committees most closely associated with the related education and prevention efforts as well as the strategic initiatives in these areas. The data are being further analyzed and evaluated in an effort to inform our education and prevention work and build a safer and better community for all students.