Princeton students report growing awareness of resources, other data related to sexual misconduct

Princeton students reported an increased awareness of campus resources and information related to sexual misconduct, as well as a lower overall prevalence of inappropriate sexual behaviors during the 2015-16 academic year, according to results from the University's latest We Speak survey.

The survey "We Speak: Attitudes on Sexual Misconduct at Princeton University" asked undergraduate and graduate students about their knowledge and experiences of sexual misconduct during the 2015-16 year, as well as their awareness of University policies, procedures and resources. (PDF of complete 2016 "We Speak" results.)

The confidential Web-based survey was sent to all students last spring and completed by nearly half of the enrolled undergraduate and graduate students. This was the second year the University distributed the We Speak questionnaire, first conducting the survey in spring 2015 about students' experiences during the 2014-15 academic year. The survey was designed in consultation with the Faculty-Student Committee on Sexual Misconduct and other campus partners.

In emails to students, faculty and staff announcing the results, Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity Michele Minter said participation in the survey "helps quite a lot as we strive to create a climate in which all members of our community respect and care for one another."

The 2016 survey found that close to 90 percent of undergraduates and more than 70 percent of graduate students know where to get help on campus should they or a friend be sexually assaulted — an increase in awareness since last year's survey, particularly among graduate students. The percentage of graduate students who said they received written or verbal information about sexual assault and how to intervene as a bystander nearly doubled from last year.

This growing awareness may be linked to increased training, informational materials and other University initiatives, such as UMatter, to address inappropriate sexual behavior and to provide a safe and supportive campus environment.

The 2016 We Speak questionnaire was similar to the 2015 survey, though modified slightly to ask some questions in greater detail. The survey collected information about a student's experience related to a range of inappropriate sexual behaviors (commonly known as sexual misconduct), including: non-consensual sexual contact (commonly known as sexual assault); non-consensual sexual penetration (commonly known as rape); intimate relationship violence; stalking; and sexual harassment.

According to the survey results, 15 percent of all students said they experienced some form of inappropriate sexual behavior during the 2015-16 school year. This overall prevalence of inappropriate sexual behavior was lower than the prevalence reported during the previous 2014-15 year.

The estimated prevalence varied, however, when broken down by undergraduate and graduate students or gender. For example, the rate of having experienced some form of inappropriate sexual behavior was the highest among undergraduate women (28 percent), followed by graduate women (17 percent), undergraduate men (9 percent) and graduate men (5 percent).

Nine percent of all students reported they had experienced non-consensual sexual contact and 2 percent reported experiencing non-consensual sexual penetration, representing a slight decrease in both categories since last year's survey. While the 2016 survey found a small increase from last year in the percentage of graduate women who experienced sexual harassment, there was a decrease among undergraduate women, undergraduate men and graduate men.

In her email, Minter said the findings are similar to surveys by other universities, though Princeton must still work diligently to address these issues.

"While the percentages of misconduct at Princeton reported in [some areas] were lower than what was reported in the 2015 'We Speak' survey, they still show that too many of our students have been victims of sexual misconduct," Minter said. "The figures underscore the continued need for all of us to address sexual misbehavior on a sustained basis. We must provide students with the information they need to get help and support if they or their friends are the victims of sexual misconduct. … We hope you will support the important programs that we have initiated to increase awareness and prevent sexual misconduct."

The full "We Speak" report (.pdf) is available online, as well as more information about campus resources and policies regarding sexual misconduct. The University plans to re-administer the survey for the 2016-17 academic year.

The Faculty-Student Committee on Sexual Misconduct will hold discussions about the report during the next month to get feedback from members of the University community. The report also will be discussed at the Council for the Princeton University Community (CPUC) meeting at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14, in Friend Center, Room 101.