A report published by the University of Texas at Austin (UTA) this week once again raised the issue of safety on US campuses after it found almost 15% of female students had reported having been raped. The University said the findings, based on a study of over 7,600 students were of "tremendous concern".
In addition to rape, the study found that 22% of female undergraduate students had experienced stalking, 18% of students had experienced unwanted sexual contact, and 42% had experienced sexual harassment by their peers. In addition, 20% of students said they had experienced sexual harassment by university staff. Despite this, 65% of victims said they felt safe from sexual harassment at UTA.
The vast majority of incidents were reported to have taken place off-campus, nonetheless UTA President Gregory Fenves said: "This survey is a wake-up call to me, as it should be for every student, faculty member and staff member at UT Austin"
He added: "The first injustice committed in every assault or inappropriate behaviour is the act itself, but the second injustice is often the silence of the community surrounding that victim. We must not be silent anymore, and we must not be afraid to face this problem."
The news comes amid concern about sexual violence on US college campuses, highlighted by incidents such as the Baylor scandal in which 52 women claimed to have been sexually assaulted by 31 of the Baylor University's American football players. Seventeen of those women reported rapes committed by 19 of the players leading to the resignation of both the football team's coach and the university's president.
In 2015, 19-year-old Stanford University student Brock Turner was charged and subsequently found guilty of the serious sexual assault of a 23-year-old woman on the campus. Turner was sentenced to just six months imprisonment in a county jail and was released after serving half his sentence.
The report will again raise questions about what is being done to educate young men and women on consent. Last year in the UK, in response to high numbers of students reporting incidents of sexual harassment or assault, a number of universities provided workshops to students as part of fresher's week exploring issues around consent.
Speaking about the findings of the UTA report, the university's Chancellor William H. McRaven, wrote in the report: "If we want to change our campus culture, then we have to be open and honest about our students' experiences, no matter how uncomfortable it is."
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