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Breaking down the Michigan numbers from new sexual assault survey

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

  Nearly 1 in 4 college women experience some form of sexual assault, according to a new survey from the Association of American Universities.

The survey polled 150,000 students at 27 schools, including the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.

And what’s interesting is that this survey indicates that sexual assault on campus may be even more prevalent than other, widely-cited studies suggest – for instance, the White House’s “Not Alone” campaign says 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college.

At the University of Michigan, 30% of female undergraduate students said they’ve experienced assault involving penetration or “sexual touching” since entering college. That puts Michigan at the higher end of the spectrum of all the colleges surveyed.

With 30% of female undergrads reporting assault, the University of Michigan is at the higher end of all colleges surveyed.

“With regard to some areas of non-consensual sexual behavior, our numbers are higher than the aggregate data released by the AAU, while in other areas we are consistent with it,” Michigan officials said in a press release today.

“We’ve been working on this issue for decades, so it is not surprising that our students are aware of this topic and are familiar with how to respond. We believe that, too, is reflected in our percentages.”

Meanwhile, 24.8% of female undergrads at Michigan State University said they’ve been the victims of this type of assault.

“The survey underscores that sexual assault on college campuses is a serious national issue,” MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said in a press release. “I take no comfort that our preliminary analysis of this data suggests the experiences of some of our students are statistically similar to those at other AAU institutions.

Females, undergrads, and non-heterosexual students at greater risk  

We already knew that college women are more likely to be assaulted than men, and that the risk is greatest during their first few years of school. This survey bears that out, too.

Plus, female undergrads were also more pessimistic about how their school would respond to reports of sexual assaults, with less trust that the schools would do fair investigations of the assaults, or that administrators would take any action against the offender.  

And sexual orientation plays a big role, too. “Non-heterosexual students” were twice as likely as heterosexual students to report being a victim of campus assault at both MSU and U of M.

Below, we’ve pulled out some of the data from the two Michigan schools who participated in this survey.

Frequency and nature of sexual assault:

Female undergrads who were sexually assaulted as a result of force or incapacitation:

MSU: 24.8%

UMich: 30%

Male undergrads who were sexually assaulted as a result of force or incapacitation:

MSU: 5.7%

UMich: 6.8%  

Students who said they’ve been victims of sexual harassment:

MSU: 49.4%

UMich: 54.7%

Students who’ve experienced intimate partner violence (emotional and physical)

MSU: 11.5%

UMich: 9.9%

Reporting sexual assault:

Victims of “penetrative acts” involving physical force who reported the incident:

MSU: 28%

UMich: 23.2%

Victims of “penetrative acts” involving physical incapacitation who reported the incident:


UMich: 15.9%

Beliefs about how their school would handle assaults:  

Female undergrads who believe it’s very or extremely likely their school would do a fair investigation:

MSU: 43%  

UMich: 31%

Female undergrads who believe it’s very or extremely likely the school would take action against the offender:

MSU: 36%

UMich: 24% 

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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