AAU Releases Results from 2019 Sexual Assault and Misconduct Survey

The survey found 13% of the 181,752 respondents had experienced non-consensual sexual contact since enrolling as a student at their school.

AAU Releases Results from 2019 Sexual Assault and Misconduct Survey

The Association of American Universities (AAU) has released the results of its 2019 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct, aimed at helping U.S. colleges and universities with continued efforts to address sexual misconduct on campus.

A follow-up to the 2015 Campus Climate Survey and 2017 Campus Activities Survey, 181,752 students from 33 colleges and universities completed the most recent survey, which is considered the largest college-based probability sample survey conducted on sexual assault and misconduct.

The survey, conducted in the spring of 2019, was designed to provide separate estimates for incidents involving two types of non-consensual sexual contact (penetration and sexual touching) and four tactics (perpetrator’s use of physical force, victims inability to consent to sexual contact or stop what was happening, coercion of the victim, or contact which continued without active, ongoing, voluntary agreement from the victim), according to AAU. The survey also provides estimates for incidents of sexual harassment, stalking and intimate partner violence (IPV).

The new report shows the overall rate of non-consensual sexual contact by physical force or inability to consent was 13% — 25.9% of undergraduate women, 6.8% of undergraduate men and 22.8% of students who identify with the LGBTQ community. (See Figure E-1 in the slideshow for full results). 

For the 21 schools that participated in both the 2015 and 2019 surveys, results showed an increase in non-consensual sexual contact by physical force or inability to consent: 3% for undergraduate women, 2.4% for graduate and professional women and 1.4% for undergraduate men.

Encouragingly, for the same 21 schools, there was a significant increase in student reports of their knowledge about school definitions and procedures related to sexual misconduct — an 11.5% increase to 36.9% for undergraduate women and a 12.4% increase to 40.3% for undergraduate men.

“The results provide cause for both hope and continued concern,” AAU President Mary Sue Coleman said in a statement. “They reveal that while students know more about university-sponsored resources for victims of sexual assault and misconduct, they still aren’t using these resources often enough.”

The survey found most victims refrain from contacting offices dedicated to providing aid, with the top reason being they don’t believe the incident was serious enough to merit further action.

The most common types of program or resource contacted after victimization was counseling (46.8%), campus police (11.2%) and local police (9.4%).

Of students who accessed available programs or resources, 35% said they felt it was “not at all” or “a little” useful, while 40.7% said they felt it was “very” or “extremely” useful.

Additional significant findings from the survey include:

  • 19% of students at all participating schools reported experiencing sexual harassment that interfered with academic pursuits or created a hostile environment on campus
  • Women in graduate and professional programs who were sexually harassed were far more likely than other victims of harassment to point to a faculty member or instructor as the perpetrator
  • 5.8% of students reported experiencing stalking (see Figure E-5 in slideshow)
  • 10.1% of all students reported intimate partner violence
  • 24.8% reported sexual assault and sexual misconduct was either “very” or “extremely” problematic at their school (see Figure E-6 in slideshow)

Nearly all of the universities that participated in a 2019 survey have published their individual results and will be addressing specific problems or challenges identified, according to the schools.

Educators say the latest findings highlight the importance of initiatives to educate students about sexual violence prevention.

About the Author


Amy is Campus Safety’s Senior Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy’s mother, brother, sister-in-law and a handful of cousins are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

In her free time, Amy enjoys exploring the outdoors with her husband, her son and her dog.

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