An internal survey conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, in April reportedly found that nearly one in six, or 17 percent of women enrolled in its undergraduate program, and 5 percent of undergraduate men, had been sexually assaulted on campus. The findings of the survey were released Monday, according to media reports.
The findings coincide approximately with a nationwide estimate of campus sexual assaults, published by the U.S. justice department in 2007, which found that about 19 percent of female students had faced sexual violence on campus. However, when the MIT students were asked if they had been raped, only 11 percent of female undergraduates and 2 percent of male undergraduates said yes, reflecting a lack of clarity among the students about what constituted rape.
“The responses indicated that many students who had experienced behaviors that would meet a legal definition of sexual assault or rape did not define the experience in those terms themselves,” Cynthia Barnhart, the university chancellor, said, according to a report by MIT News.
The survey invited responses from nearly 11,000 students, of which about 3,800 students, or 35 percent, reportedly responded.
Among students who said that they had experienced unwanted sexual behavior while at MIT, close to half said that someone had taken advantage of them when they were impaired by drugs or alcohol. Only 5 percent of those assaulted reported the incident to a campus official because they felt they were partially at fault.
“Overall, the results suggest that the problem of sexual assault in our community is comparable to that reported on other residential campuses,” Barnhart reportedly said. “These are painful facts, and we must take action.”
MIT President Rafael Reif said that he was disturbed by the “extent and nature of the problem reflected in the survey results,” in a campus email on Monday, according to media reports. “Sexual assault violates our core MIT values. It has no place here. I am confident that, with this shared understanding and armed with this new data, the MIT community will find a path to significant positive change.”
The survey was conducted after an alumna reportedly wrote anonymously in the MIT student newspaper describing a sexual assault while she was a student at the university. In February, Reif had reportedly declared prevention of sexual assault and harassment a priority, according to media reports.