Sunday, October 1, 2023

W&M survey: Fraternity and sorority members, women, LGBTQ community are targets of sexual assault

William & Mary's sorority court houses several Greek organizations.(Courtesy photo/Wikimedia Commons)
William & Mary’s sorority court houses several Greek organizations.(Courtesy photo/Wikimedia Commons)

The results are in for a “climate study” on sexual assault and misconduct at William & Mary — and it reveals striking statistics about the university’s female, LGBTQ and Greek life populations.

A subcommittee of William & Mary’s sexual assault prevention task force released the results in an executive report earlier this month, almost one year after students took a survey asking about their experiences with sexual assault at the university.

The results show female students were victims of sexual misconduct — including harassment, stalking and physical violence — more frequently than their male counterparts. Non-heterosexual and non-straight students also experienced statistically significantly higher rates of harassment and assault.

Further, the survey showed a majority of sexual misconduct victims were members of fraternity and sorority life.

“One student experiencing sexual misconduct in any form is too many,” according to Erin Zagursky, associate director of William & Mary News. “The only acceptable rate is zero.”

By the numbers

While the survey reveals the demographic information of sexual assault and misconduct victims, the survey also has some other key findings.

The survey asks about various forms of sexual misconduct, spanning from non-physical offenses such as remarks about physical appearance, persistent sexual advances or stalking, to physical offenses including unwanted touching, sexual exploitation, sexual penetration, oral sex or anal sex.

The survey had 2,672 respondents, 1,899 of which completed the entire survey. It was disseminated to students between March 21 and April 2, 2017, according to Zagursky.

  • 69.4 percent of respondents were the victim of at least one act of sexual misconduct.
  • 61 percent believe campus officials would take their report of sexual misconduct seriously, and would protect the safety of the victim.
  • 40 percent believe campus officials would take action against the offender(s).
  • 34 percent believe campus officials would take action to address factors that may have led to the sexual misconduct
  • Of the survey’s 2,672 respondents, 43 percent were members of Greek organizations.
  • Greek life members make up 55 percent of harassment victims, 59 percent of stalking victims, 57 percent of interpersonal/domestic violence victims, 67.3 percent of physical sexual violence victims, and 66 percent of non-physical sexual violence victims.
  • 79.7 percent of perpetrators and 80.9 percent of victims drank alcohol prior to the encounter.

The findings of the report come on the heels of several issues within William & Mary’s fraternity and sorority life. Fraternity PiKA was put on probation for having open alcohol at a spring 2017 party, and sorority Hermandad Sigma Iota Alpha, Inc was suspended for hazing new members.

The survey

The climate survey is a part of a larger push to prevent sexual assault at William & Mary.

The survey results were released by the Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Sexual Assault & Harassment, a segment of William & Mary’s Task Force on Preventing Sexual Assault and Harassment.

In 2015, the Task Force on Preventing Sexual Assault and Harassment made recommendations in four areas: campus climate, prevention and education, training for faculty and staff, and investigation and adjudication. (Stephen Salpukas/College of William & Mary)
In 2015, the Task Force on Preventing Sexual Assault and Harassment made recommendations in four areas: campus climate, prevention and education, training for faculty and staff, and investigation and adjudication. (Stephen Salpukas/College of William & Mary)

“The university is already using the information from this survey to better support our survivors and to help further refine and focus our work to prevent and better address any instances of sexual misconduct within our campus community,” Zagursky said.

The survey’s 30.4-percent response rate means the statistics are only a snapshot of sexual assault at William & Mary, but the executive report maintains that the results are a true representation of the entire population.

“We are 95 percent confident the true results are within +/- 2 percent of the survey results,” the report reads.

The survey was based on the Association of American Universities (AAU) sexual assault and sexual misconduct survey, but had some institution-specific changes.

Results from the survey are intended to help the task force find best practices for preventing sexual assault on campus.

“With a new bystander intervention [programming] kicking off this spring, further exploration of bystander behavior, the role of alcohol and the circumstances surrounding sexual misconduct should be explored,” the executive report reads.

W&M vs. the rest of the country

Because there is no uniform sexual misconduct survey used for campuses across the county, William & Mary officials say it is difficult to compare the climate survey’s results to national statistics.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), sexual violence is more likely to happen at colleges and universities than other crimes.

Similiar to William & Mary’s survey results, 21 percent of transgender, genderqueer and nonconforming (TGQN) college students have been sexually assaulted, compared to 18 percent of non-TGQN females, and 4 percent of non-TGQN males.

Nationwide, 11.2 percent of all graduate and undergraduate students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation, according to RAINN.

“We really can’t compare those figures to W&M’s data in a meaningful way,” according to W&M officials. “Until we have a survey that is used uniformly by colleges across the country, it will be very difficult to compare ourselves to other institutions or to national benchmarks.”

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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