This past April, students across Harvard’s schools—along with their counterparts at twenty-six other universities—were asked to complete a sexual conduct survey.  The results warrant the attention and concern of everyone in our community said Drew Faust, President Harvard University.  The data reinforce the alarming frequency with which our students, especially but by no means only our undergraduates, experience incidents of sexual assault.  They also underscore how many students lack confidence in how our institution will respond to reports of sexual misconduct—and how many lack adequate knowledge of the resources and support available to them in times of distress and need.

Across Harvard’s schools, the President went on to highlight the main findings:

  • Female Harvard College seniors were asked about their experience since starting college.  More than six in ten responded to the survey.  Of those who responded, 31 percent (or 172 women) said they had experienced some form of “nonconsensual sexual contact” since college began.  And more than half of those—ninety women, representing 16 percent of the female Harvard College seniors who responded—reported that they had experienced penetration or attempted penetration without their consent during their years in college.  (The stated numbers of women do not account for the incidence of sexual assault among female seniors who did not complete the survey.)
  • 4.2 percent of all students who responded to the survey reported that they had experienced some form of “nonconsensual sexual contact” during the past year.  That translates to 518 students.   Among those, roughly a third—1.4 percent of all respondents, or 170 students—reported that they had experienced completed or attempted penetration without their consent over the past year.  The stated numbers of students do not account for the incidence of sexual assault among the nearly half of our students who did not complete the survey, the statement said.

The findings reveal consistently higher rates of sexual assault reported by the BGLTQ community; high correlation between sexual assault and the use of alcohol among both assailants and those who have experienced assault; disturbingly low percentage of students who indicate they know where to get help or believe that the University will respond appropriately when assaults are reported; the activities that lead to assaults and the locations where they occur, including the undergraduate Houses and freshman dorms as well as recognized and unrecognized student organizations.

Read Statement on the Results of the Sexual Conduct Survey. Harvard University.

Vandana Kumar is a publishing executive with a 35-year track record in the industry. She leads the India Currents Foundation as President and CEO. As a new immigrant, she co-founded India Currents magazine...