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Study: 28 Percent of Female Dartmouth Students Have Been Sexually Assaulted

MattBritt00 via Flickr Creative Commons

Dartmouth College has released the results of a major survey which finds that more than 1 in 4 female undergraduates at the school have been victims of some sort of unwanted sexual encounter.

The American Association of Universities commissioned the study that surveyed 150,000 students at 27 schools and found similar rates around the country. It found that in most of those schools somewhere between 1-in-5 and 1-in-4 undergraduate women say they experienced some sort of non-consensual sexual contact. At Dartmouth the odds were near the top, with 28 percent of young women saying they had experienced some sort of incident, compared to an average of 23 percent throughout all the schools.

Among victims only 36 percent say they reported the incident, with most saying they didn’t think it was serious enough, or they didn’t think it would remain confidential.

Bruce Sacerdote, the chair of a committee reviewing the data at Dartmouth, said he was disturbed to see the rates were so high, and that less than a third of female victims said they would be confident that officials would take action against an accused perpetrator.

“It could actually be the reality that people are distrustful of the system to process these complaints and incidents,” he said.

He said the data show that drugs and alcohol are frequently a factor in these encounters, and he thinks re-educating students on what it is to give consent will be key.

“Even if there’s not a massive change in the amount of alcohol people are drinking, there is a massive change in what understand consent to be,” Sacerdote explained. "That’s my hope.”

Phil Hanlon, Dartmouth’s president, wrote in an open letter posted along with the study’s results that the school “must make progress on these very serious issues” and it will launch its own study of campus culture next month.

Dartmouth is one of a handful of schools nationwide that has adopted an “affirmative consent” or “yes means yes” policy, meaning both parties in a sexual encounter have to consciously and voluntarily agree to an encounter for it to be considered consensual. 

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