Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey: Summary of Findings

In February 2017, Luther College students were invited to complete the Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey administered by the Higher Education Data Sharing consortium (HEDS). The online survey was completed by 594 out of 1,976 degree-seeking students, a response rate of 30.1%. Respondents included first years (24%), sophomores (26%), juniors (24%) and seniors (25%); 67% (n=397) identified as female, 32% (n=191) as male, 0% filled in another gender identity, and 1% (n=6) did not answer gender; 77% identified as heterosexual; 6% were international students, 8% US students of color, 86% white, 1% unknown race/ethnicity. Luther results were compared with undergraduate data from 75 small, private institutions who participated in the survey in the 2015-2016 or 2016-2017 academic years.

General climate

  • 77% of women and 92% of men feel safe on campus.
  • 79% of students feel like part of the Luther community and 84% agree that students are genuinely concerned about the welfare of other students.
  • Most students believe that college officials would take a report of sexual assault seriously (82% of women and 87% of men), conduct a careful investigation (66% of women and 70% of men), and support the person making the report (79% of women and 88% of men).
  • 90% of respondents agree that faculty, staff, and administrators respect what students think.
  • At comparison institutions, 77% of women and 88% of men feel safe on campus, 75% of women and 86% of men believe that college officials would take a report of sexual assault seriously, and 62% of women and 71% of men believe that college officials would conduct a careful investigation.

Prevalence of sexual assault and unwanted sexual contact

  • Both women (14.4%, n=57) and men (3.1%, n=6) report having experienced sexual assault since starting at Luther College. Sexual assaults involved unwanted touching of a sexual nature (98%), vaginal sex (40%), oral sex (28%), anal sex (0%), or vaginal or anal penetration with a finger or object (6%). Of the students who report having experienced sexual assault, 60% experienced more than one assault.
  • 72% of women (n=285) and 39% of men (n=73) report having experienced one or more incidents of unwanted sexual contact since starting at Luther College. Unwanted sexual contact involved unwanted verbal behaviors (68% of women and 30% of men), unwanted nonverbal behaviors (34% of women and 20% of men), and unwanted brief physical contact (50% of women and 29% of men).
  • Both women (10.9%, n=43) and men (3.1%, n=6) report having experienced attempted, unsuccessful sexual assault.
  • Sexual assault was reported by 12.3% of women and 3.0% of men at comparison institutions.

Sexual assault details

  • Threat of force, coercion, or intimidation was involved in 38% of sexual assaults.
  • Most sexual assaults (86%) were carried out by students from Luther College. Nearly all sexual assaults (96%) were carried out by men.
  • Most assaults occurred in residence halls (50%) or in nearby off campus locations (34%).
  • In most cases, both the survivor (60%) and perpetrator (65%) had consumed alcohol. In some cases, survivors (6%) and perpetrators (11%) voluntarily used other drugs. Many survivors, both women (40%) and men (67%), report being incapacitated in some way.
  • 8% (n=40) of students report having observed a sexual assault; 58% of those students report that they intervened (23 of 40). 38% of survivors report that bystanders were present (25 of 65); in those cases, only 12% report that the bystanders intervened (3 of 25).
  • At comparison institutions, 68% of students observing a sexual assault intervened, and 24% of survivors reported bystanders intervened when present.

Reporting sexual assault

  • Most survivors told a close friend about the assault (74%); 38% told a roommate, 25% told a romantic partner, and 25% told a parent/guardian. 17% did not tell anyone.
  • Formal reports to the college were filed by 18% (n=10) of women and 0% of men who experienced sexual assault. Survey rates of sexual assault were much higher than those reported in the annual security report, indicating an underreporting of sexual assault.
  • Reports to law enforcement were filed by 11% (n=6) of women and 0% of men.
  • Comparison schools had formal reports to the college by 13% of women and 3% men, and reports to police by 4% of women and 1% of men.

Summary of open-ended comments

At various points during the survey, students were invited to make open-ended comments. To ensure the anonymity of our respondents, we will not release these comments. In these comments, students expressed:

  • That students do not always feel physically safe on our campus, especially at night.
  • A desire for more information and training about sexual violence.
  • Concern that survivors of sexual violence often do not feel safe reporting assaults to either college or law enforcement authorities and thus do not receive adequate support.
  • Concern that the student conduct process does not consistently result in justice for the survivor, noting that some perpetrators continue to attend the college.
  • Concern that the student conduct process does not consistently provide adequate due process to students accused of sexual violence, noting that some students are falsely accused.
  • General confusion about the role of alcohol in sexual encounters.
  • Skepticism that college administrators truly care about preventing sexual violence beyond trying to protect the college’s reputation.
  • Appreciation that college officials do work hard to care for survivors and provide a safe campus for students.

Changes since the administration of the HEDS survey

Since the time that this survey was administered (spring 2017), the college has:

  • Launched sexual violence and bias incident reporting forms to make it easier for students to report sexual assault to the college.
  • Streamlined the sexual assault intake process to ensure that students receive consistent care with minimal frustration and confusion.
  • Strengthened incentives for students to complete the required online sexual violence and substance abuse training, by moving the completion deadline earlier and by imposing concrete penalties for failure to meet that deadline.
  • Expanded the in-person training that new students receive during orientation. This program, now known as Community of Care, uses a student-led theater group to present the complex and intersecting issues of mental health, substance abuse, healthy relationships, consent, and sexual assault. The presentation was accompanied by a comprehensive resource booklet.
  • Charged a task force with re-envisioning healthy relationship education and sexual assault prevention on our campus. This group is working to develop a comprehensive, campus-wide sexual violence prevention program, particularly including strong elements of bystander intervention.
  • Increased staffing by moving a part-time case manager to full-time to provide expertise and leadership to sexual violence prevention efforts. Filled a new position – dean for institutional equity and inclusion – to promote a culture of inclusion and ensure that the college is a diverse and welcoming community.