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9% of female students at University of Michigan say they experienced sexual assault

The University of Michigan Union
Wikimedia Commons
University of Michigan student union

The University of Michigan has released the results from its campus climate survey on sexual misconduct.

And while the vast majority of students said they feel safe on campus, 11% of students had an unwanted sexual experience in the last 12 months.

Nearly 10% of female students said they experienced some kind of unwanted penetration in the last year.

More broadly, 20% of female students said they had some kind of nonconsensual sexual experience in the last 12 months, including unwanted touching and kissing.

Sometimes respondents said those experiences happened when they were too drunk to stop what was happening (11%), after they were verbally threatened or pressured (10%) or because someone used force to hold them down (3.6%). 

Underreporting is a major problem: just 3% told the school or police

Less than half of students who said they had a nonconsensual sexual experience actually told anyone about it.

20% of female students said they had some kind of nonconsensual sexual experience in the last 12 months.

Most of those who did, just told a friend or a roommate. Only 3% actually went to the school or the police about it.

When asked why they didn't report it, most people said they didn't want the other person to get in trouble, or they blamed themselves or felt embarrassed.

Of those who didn't report it, 15% percent said they didn't think the University of Michigan would do anything about it.

“Students say they didn’t think it was a big deal, which is very interesting, they took care of it themselves, they were embarrassed, they didn’t want to undergo the social stigma perhaps of reporting and then the social consequences of that,” President Mark Schlissel told reporters today.

“That provides for us a target to work harder with our students, to tell them, 'Look, it’s ok to come forward when you’ve been subject to this kind of treatment, and we will deal with you sensitively and respectfully and try to help create a safer environment.'”   

Of those who didn't report it, 15% percent said they didn't think the University of Michigan would do anything about it.

The university response: hiring more staff, reviewing policies

President Schlissel also announced the school would be adding staff members to help speed up sexual assault investigations at the school, as well as adding staff to “counsel and support survivors.”

“We know we need to work harder to arrive at speedier resolutions of reports of misconduct,” Schlissel said, “but these cases are often complicated, but we want to make sure that our process is both fair and thorough.”

It’s widely believed it took Michigan four years to expel Brandon Gibbons (a football player who was the school’s starting kicker for several seasons) from the time when a female student first reported that he had allegedly raped her.

In the 2013-2014 school year, the University said they expelled just one student for sexual misconduct (though there were 129 reports of sexual misconduct made to the school).

And in January 2014, the Michigan Daily reported that the school was expelling Gibbons. University officials say federal privacy policies keep them from commenting on Gibbons’ case.  

Right now there are 3 sexual assault investigators at Michigan, according to Holly Rider-Milkovich, who leads the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center. She says they don’t yet know how many they’ll have after the new hires.

President Schlissel says he’ll also review school sexual assault policies, “with a goal of making our policies easier to understand, and the procedures clearer and more efficient for all involved.”

The survey was sent to 3,000 students and designed to be a representative sample of undergraduate and graduate students. About 67% of students responded. 

You can read the full results here.

*This post was updated at 4:21 p.m.

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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