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Tue Sep 22, 2015, 01:25 AM

Carry That Weight: Report Confirms Troubling Statistic About Campus Sexual Assault

http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/09/21/campus-sexual-assault?cmpid=tpdaily-eml-2015-09-21

Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz became the face of campus sexual assault last fall when she began carrying her 50-pound dorm room mattress around the Ivy League school—a performance she continued until in May, when she dragged the mattress across the graduation stage. The act of protest against her school’s handling of her alleged rape was frequently referred to in the national media alongside one key figure: One in five women has been sexually assaulted during her time at college.

The federal statistic is nearly as disputed as it is widely cited, but a new survey not only offers some validation but also suggests that the number of college women who experience sexual assault is higher than previously estimated. Twenty-three percent of female undergraduate students—close to one in four—reported experiencing sexual assault since enrolling in college, according to the report, which was released Monday by the Association of American Universities.

The nonprofit organization polled more than 150,000 students last spring at 27 public and private universities, including Columbia, Cornell, Yale, Harvard, and Brown. The survey is one of the first and largest to offer a uniform statistical analysis across a number of higher-education institutions.

It also includes statistics that account for attempted but not completed acts of sexual assault, along with figures based on gender identity. For example, the total number of undergraduate women who experienced either attempted or completed sexual assault is 27 percent, and that figure jumps to 30 percent for students who are transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming, or questioning.

It's worth noting that while the AAU survey encompasses a far larger number of respondents across many more institutions than the 2007 Department of Justice survey from which the “one in five” statistic was gleaned, the response rate to the former was much lower. On average, the AAU survey had a response rate of 19.3 percent, compared with the governmental survey’s 42 percent of a much smaller sample size. But according to the AAU, a low response rate does not indicate a bias in any one particular direction.

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