Nearly a third of female Utah Valley University students surveyed had experienced some form of sexual misconduct

The survey included instances spanning from written and verbal harassment to unwanted physical contact.<br>

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune File Photo) A survey of Utah Valley University students, released Friday, showed low rates of reporting among students who experience sexual misconduct.

About 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men attending Utah Valley University have experienced sexual misconduct since enrolling at the Orem school, according to a campus survey released Friday afternoon.

A majority of students who responded — 72.2 percent — said the issue of sexual misconduct was either “not at all” or “a little” problematic at UVU. But female respondents were at least twice as likely to have encountered written and verbal harassment, sexual gestures, behavior that made them feel fear, or unwanted physical contact than their male peers.

“Verbal misconduct is the most common type of sexual misconduct reported,” a summary of the survey results stated. “Females disproportionately experience sexual misconduct of all types on and off campus.”

The survey was intended to collect information on the campus environment from the perspective of students, according to UVU’s report. Sexual misconduct was defined as “verbal, nonverbal or physical contact of a sexual nature, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexual assault, rape, sexual battery [or] sexual coercion.”

Percentage of students who experienced any kind of sexual misconduct on campus<br>Male students: 10.2 percent<br>Female students: 21 percent<br><br>Percentage of student who experienced any kind of sexual misconduct off campus<br>Male students: 14.7 percent<br>Female students: 31.9 percent

A pool of 6,000 students was randomly selected for the survey, with a response rate of 10.5 percent, or about 630 students. The university report states that the survey results have a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Utah Valley University spokesman Scott Trotter said the safety of students is a top priority. Such surveys, he said, are valuable tools for measuring the effectiveness of campus policy and procedure.

“We‘re studying the data right now to see where we can improve,” Trotter said, “especially where it comes to intervention and prevention.”

UVU’s survey follows a similar report released last month by Utah State University, in which 1 in 10 female students reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact during their time at the school.

Both surveys found that a high percentage of students declined to report misconduct to university representatives.

The USU survey found that most respondents are unaware of the procedures for filing a report with the school. At UVU, 57 percent of male respondents and 43 percent of female respondents said they did not perceive their experience to be serious enough to warrant a report.

The second most prevalent response for male and female UVU students was that they did not believe anything would be done if the misconduct were reported.

“We take it seriously, and we encourage people to report,” Trotter said, “to not be afraid to come in.”

Notably, among the women who participated in the survey, zero percent responded that they had reported their experience with sexual misconduct to UVU’s Title IX office, which is responsible for coordinating sexual assault investigations and oversees the school’s compliance with federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in higher education.

Trotter said it was unclear whether the low response rate was due to a lack of awareness of the Title IX Office, or whether students were unclear on the procedures for submitting a formal complaint.

“Everybody has their reasons” for not reporting, Trotter said. “I would just be speculating.”

UVU did not release the survey questions presented to students, and the summarized results did not distinguish incidents of rape and assault beyond the category of “unwanted physical contact.”

S. Daniel Carter, president of SAFE Campuses LLC, said it is good to poll students on the broad spectrum of sexual misconduct. But he added that the best campus climate surveys include specific language related to the experiences of rape and assault victims.

“Why you didn‘t report an incident of catcalling is different than why you didn’t report an incident of rape,” Carter said. “Why you don’t report an incident of rape is far more complex and warrants a deeper range of questions and self-introspection about the institution’s policies.”

He said he was surprised the survey did not include a greater degree of detail about the various experiences faced by students. That information, he said, is “essential” if administrators hope to stop inappropriate or criminal sexual behavior on and off campus.

“The more imprecise a climate survey is,” Carter said, “the less useful it is in actually combating sexual misconduct and sexual violence.”