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Thursday, May 06, 2021

Sexual misconduct and harassment increases for UF students, survey shows

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Almost half of all UF students who took a 2019 sexual assault and misconduct survey reported experiencing at least one form of harassment. 

The full results of the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct show reported sexual misconduct or violence toward undergraduate women and men, as well as graduate women, increased since a 2015 survey. Student awareness of available resources also significantly increased. 

Students who reported identifying as non-heterosexual or with a disability were nearly twice as likely to experience non-consensual sexual contact, according to the 2019 survey. Approximately 14.8 percent of undergraduate and graduate students who identified as transgender, non-binary or gender non-conforming reported nonconsenual sexual contact.

The study was conducted in partnership with the Association of American Universities and with 32 universities besides UF as a followup to the 2015 survey, according to a UF press release. In Spring 2019, 6,561 students who are 18 or older responded. In 2015, 1,997 students responded. UF’s student population consists of about 56,000 students

Results show nearly one in three undergraduate women and nearly 8 percent of men experienced nonconsensual sexual contact in 2019, and 45 percent of all UF students experienced at least one type of harassment.

Reported awareness of campus resources such as the Office of Title IX Compliance increased from 14.6 percent to 44.9 percent since 2015. Awareness of the University Police Office of Victim Services nearly doubled from 30.7 percent in 2015, according to the results. 

UF President Kent Fuchs addressed the preliminary survey results in his monthly Alligator column on Friday, noting that for UF to truly be great, “it must lead in eliminating sexual assault.”

The UF Graduate Assistants United released a statement to The Alligator saying they’re not surprised by the increase in results in regard to graduate women because “so many offenders get away with it.”

The statement said it’s important to believe victims when they report such matters, and the university needs to take a more proactive approach to investigating sexual misconduct. 

The statement said that “All campus leaders need to unequivocally express their support for survivors, including everyone from President Fuchs to presidents of fraternities and sororities.” 

Pride Student Union at the University of Florida did not respond to inquiry for comment.

Since the beginning of Fall 2019, a former UF resident assistant is facing a charge of attempted sexual battery, a former UF football player was accused of rape and multiple occurrences of sexual violence on campus were made public. A UF student also came forward about being raped while on her way to the Homecoming football game on Oct. 5.

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The survey also showed 81 percent of UF students reported that sexual assault and misconduct information was included at the university’s student orientation, an increase from about 50 percent since 2015.  

The release said UF offers legal services, programs and presentations for students and rape defense classes, and it launched a campaign last year encouraging students to report sexual violence. 

UF Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Heather White said she hopes initiatives on campus will help decrease sexual misconduct.

“The survey results solidify that a culture change needs to be made,” White said.

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