One in six female MIT students a victim of sexual assault: Survey

One in six female undergraduates at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who responded to a survey has been sexually assaulted, but fewer than 5 percent reported a sex crime, MIT said.

Reuters| Updated: Oct 28, 2014, 05:30 AM IST

Boston: One in six female undergraduates at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who responded to a survey has been sexually assaulted, but fewer than 5 percent reported a sex crime, MIT said.

Five percent of female undergraduates said they had been raped and one in five knew a perpetrator of unwanted sexual behavior, according to the MIT poll, which had a response rate of 35 percent from undergraduate and graduate students.

"Sexual assault violates our core MIT values. It has no place here," MIT President Rafael Reif wrote in a campus email Monday accompanying the survey results.

MIT, which urged all its students to take the survey on attitudes towards sexual assault, is one of the first U.S. schools to release wide-ranging data on sex crimes on campus.

Lawmakers, activists and students across the United States have been urging a crackdown on sexual assaults on campuses.

MIT emailed the survey to all of its 10,831 undergraduate and graduate students on April 27 - two days before the White House called on colleges and universities to ask students about these matters.

The White House has declared sex crimes to be "epidemic" on U.S. college campuses, with one in five students falling victim to sex assault during college years.

The survey also asked students about how widely unwanted sexual behavior occurs on campus, and how likely victims were to discuss it with friends or others.

"We are interested in learning about the problem, measuring it and solving it," MIT Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart said on a teleconference call with reporters.

She said the school was expanding prevention and education efforts as it continued to mine the data, and that it planned to conduct follow-up surveys.

Barnhart noted a certain sense of confusion about what constitutes sexual assault and said the school released the poll to intensify the discussion about it while seeking ways to curb such incidents.

According to the poll, nearly two-thirds of respondents who had encountered an unwanted sexual experience said they had told someone about it, but less than 5 percent reported the incident to an official.

Barnhart said only a small number of sexual assaults were reported at MIT and that the school was adding new resources to help students who had experienced an assault.

Over the past few months, more incidents have been reported, she said, noting that raising awareness about the problem was paying off.

MIT began taking steps after an alumna wrote anonymously in the student newspaper, saying she had been raped on campus.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Richard Chang)