PROVO — A majority of students said BYU is doing a poor job of educating students about sexual assault and said that they don't know what to do when they experience unwanted sexual conduct, according to a highly anticipated campus survey released Thursday by school administrators.
Overall, students reported they are happy with the university and their fellow students, and 97 percent of students said the school is trying hard to make sure all students are safe. But 57 percent disagreed with the statement "BYU is doing a good job of educating students about sexual assault" and three-fourths said they have not received training on the legal definition of sexual assault, how to report it and what services are available to victims.
Even more, 78 percent, said they haven't received information about the definition of consent, and 84 percent said they have not received education or training on how consent is asked for and given between partners.
"That reflects that most students feel that they haven't received any education or training on sexual assault or prevention," said Rosemary Thackeray, a health sciences professor who served on the campus survey committee. "And they really don't know where to go to report or take a friend if they have been a victim of it. They feel like they haven't received enough training, and that BYU really could do better at providing that training for them to prevent sexual assault and to help victims know where to go to get resources."
The findings led the survey committee, made up of a dean and four professors, to submit 11 recommendations to the administration. Nine of the recommendations called for improved training for students, including the formation of a training committee for sexual misconduct issues composed of campus professionals and devoted exclusively to training students in sexual misconduct prevention, reporting and support.
The survey found that 1 in 16 women and 1 in 83 men experienced unwanted sexual contact in the previous year. BYU had a notably high response rate, with 43 percent of students completing the survey. To read the survey committee's report on the findings, complete with dozens of data sets, click here.
BYU conducted the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault in the spring, 18 months after a 19-year-old student complained in a campus forum that BYU's Honor Code Office launched an investigation into her own conduct after she told Provo police that a man had raped her. A jury found the man not guilty in a trial last month.
Other women came forward, adding to the specter that the university was punishing sexual assault victims, and more than 117,000 people signed a petition asking BYU to change its policies. The story gained national attention. The federal Office for Civil Rights launched an ongoing Title IX investigation into BYU's handling of reports of sexual assault.
BYU responded by launching an advisory council to study the issue. The group made 23 recommendations and the university accepted all of them, including a campus climate survey and the adoption more than a year ago of an amnesty policy that shields victims of unwanted sexual conduct from honor code investigation.
The survey was launched just weeks after BYU hired a new Title IX coordinator and victim advocate, and they and others have implemented new and additional training for students since the survey was completed.
BYU's 43 percent response rate exceeded most other schools, according to Lindsay Orchowski, a psychologist at Rhode Island Hospital and a research professor at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
"The large number of students who participated in the survey lends confidence to the findings, and also speaks to the openness of the student community to address these issues," said Orchowski in a Q&A released by the school.
The school emailed the survey to more than 29,000 students. To encourage responses, it gave away 100 iPods in a drawing for those who completed it and provided weekly reminders for seven weeks. In all, 43 percent of BYU students completed the survey.
BYU surveyed students about incidents in the previous 12 months. USU, the U. and UVU asked students about their experiences since they arrived on those campuses.
The BYU survey found 3.7 percent reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact in the prior year. At USU, 7.4 percent of students reported nonconsensual sexual contact since arriving at the Logan school. The U. survey found 13 percent of students experienced unwanted sexual conduct since arriving on campus. UVU reported that 14.7 percent of men and 31.9 percent of women had experienced sexual misconduct during their time at the Orem school.
"These data suggest that whether a student is in a large lecture hall or a small seminar class, there is likely to be someone in the same room whose life has been recently affected by sexual violence," Orchowski said.
Students responded to questions in four main categories — sexual misconduct, reporting, training and their perceptions of the campus climate.
Among the findings:
• 475 students provided information about 730 incidents of unwanted sexual contact from forced kissing and fondling over clothes to oral sex and penetration.
• 93 percent thought their compliance with BYU's honor code would be investigated if they were sexually assaulted, and 45 percent thought their ecclesiastical endorsement would be questioned.
• 52 percent of unwanted sexual contact came from a current or former dating partner or spouse and 6 percent came from a stranger.
• Perpetrators coerced victims by using criticism, displeasure or anger (39 percent), force (36 percent), lying, threats and verbal pressure (35 percent), using religious language or authority (16 percent) and other means.
• Victims reported that perpetrators had used alcohol or drugs before an incident 6 percent of the time while victims had used substances 2 percent of the time.
"This is a surprising finding that separates us from other institutions," said Ben Ogles, who chaired the survey committee and is the dean of the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences.
Other committee members were Thackeray, psychology professor Bob Ridge, associate director of institutional assessment Eric Jenson and Jennie Bingham of counseling and psychological services.
Other findings included:
• Most incidents occurred off campus in BYU-approved housing (32 percent), in Provo (29 percent) or in a different city (18 percent) while 6 percent happened on campus and 14 percent in on-campus housing.
• Unwanted sexual contact negatively impacted students spiritually (67 percent of incidents), academically (41 percent), and in relationships (38 percent).
• 64 percent of incidents went unreported to any formal source, but ecclesiastical leaders were the overwhelming top choice (26 percent) for those who did report, followed by BYU Counseling and Psychological Services; the Title IX Office received 3 percent of reports.
"The vast majority who went to ecclesiastical leaders reported it was helpful to them," Ogles said.
• Three-quarters of students who participated in Title IX investigations said the office respected their privacy and was sensitive, serious, fair and impartial.
• 94 percent said BYU does not tolerate sexual harassment and three-quarters said BYU takes sexual assault training seriously, does a good job holding perpetrators responsible and provides needed services to victims.
• Most thought that if assaulted, they would be taken seriously (85 percent), treated with dignity and respect (85 percent) and their privacy would be protected (86 percent).
• Two-thirds of incidents were reported to informal sources like friends, roommates and family.
"We want to train those friends and fellow students so they can help victims access resources," Ogles said. "Then we won't have people suffering in silence.25 comments on this story
BYU offers three places where victims can get help and speak with someone confidentially — Victim Advocacy Services and Counseling and Psychological Services (both 1500 Wilkinson Center) and Women’s Services and Resources (3326 Wilkinson Center). They also can go to the Title IX Office to report incidents.
"Overall, it's positive," said Thackeray, who has worked for the Centers for Disease Control and the Utah Department of Health, "but it is a reflection of, here's an area where we have some work to do."