UT Austin has highest percentage of rape among female undergraduates, study finds

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Photo Credit: Megan McFarren | Daily Texan Staff

UT Austin has the highest percentage of rape among female undergraduates across eight UT System academic institutions, according to a survey released Friday.  

The Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments survey, paid for by the UT System Board of Regents, found 15 percent of female undergraduates had been “raped, either through force, threat of force, incapacitation or other forms of coercion,” since their enrollment at UT Austin. UT Dallas and UT San Antonio had the second highest percentages, both at 9 percent, and UT Tyler was reported to have the lowest at 6 percent. 

The survey collected data from 26,417 students at 13 different UT academic and health institutions in fall 2015 and early 2016. At UT Austin, 7,684 students participated. 

“The UT System is shining a light on this issue, with the goal of refining existing programs and implementing additional strategies to minimize risks for students,” Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, executive director of media relations and external communications, said in an email. “Even one incident of sexual assault or misconduct on our campuses is one too many.”

UT Police Department Chief David Carter said the department was not surprised by the survey results because sexual assault victims are often reluctant to report. 

“Nationally, survey after survey says that sexual assaults are greatly under-reported,” Carter said. “Considering the small number reported to UTPD, (the survey results) are not surprising.”

Only 8 percent of victims across the System said they told someone at the institution about the instance, and 28 percent told someone they trusted. At UT Austin the number of victims who reported to the University was a little lower at 6 percent, however, 32 percent told someone they trusted about the incident.

The full survey used behavioral questions to look at four areas of violence including sexual harassment by students and staff, stalking, dating and domestic abuse and unwanted sexual contact. These areas of violence are all prohibited under Title IX, an education amendment that protects against sex discrimination. 

A student who has experienced these forms of violence can report the incident to the Title IX Office, and also has the option to take criminal action and report the incident to the police. In both Title IX and criminal proceedings, the victim can choose to remain anonymous. 

Carter said seven incidents of sexual assault were reported to UTPD last year, and so far this year, one incident has been reported to the department. 

“The number of cases reported to UTPD is very, very small,” Carter said. “By nature people are very reluctant to report sexual assault, at least to the police. I would say the University is aware of many more sexual assaults because they are reported through Title IX, and the victim does not want to involve the police.”

Included in the UT Austin report was a number of initiatives the University said they plan to implement to address sexual violence on campus. Among the immediate priorities was developing educational programs for faculty and staff, collecting more data on specific instances of sexual assault and expanding services which aid and inform students. 

Although the University provides reporting and support services to victims of sexual assault, public health sophomore Sofie Momin said it’s not enough. 

“They have those support services available, but I feel like people don’t reach out to them that much because I think they think once (the assault) happened, it’s happened and there’s nothing that can be done to change it,” Momin said. “Sometimes they don’t want to talk about it once it’s happened. They just don’t want to publicize or make it a big deal, even though it is.”

The full System and University reports are available on the UT System website.