Trigger warning: rape and sexualized violence.

The results of the University Senate Committee for the Prevention of Sexual Violence’s first anonymous campus climate survey show that Emory must boost sexual assault prevention efforts, according to Associate Professor of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education Jessica Sales.

“Everything we learned from the survey was important, because [before] we had nothing,” Sales said.

The Results

In April, all Emory community members received an email with a survey of roughly 150 questions that evaluated the perceptions and prevalence of campus sexual violence ranging from harassment to stalking to rape. Over 2,500 people, a little over 18 percent, responded to at least one question, but, of those, not all responded to every question.

Roughly 10 percent of the respondents said they had experienced a sexual assault, and of those, more than six percent said they formally reported the incident to Emory.

Three-quarters of Emory College respondents said they had witnessed sexual harassment and more than half had experienced sexual harassment since coming to Emory.

About 17 percent of College respondents said that they have experienced stalking, almost 23 percent said that they have experienced interpersonal violence and more than 18 percent said that they have experienced sexual assault or rape at Emory.

Over 33 percent of College respondents said that they have experienced interpersonal violence while in a relationship.

“We were all — I don’t want to say shocked — but glad that we asked about those various forms of violence,” Sales said.

Sexual assault refers to physical contact while harassment involves unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate comments.

About half of Emory College respondents said that they have received a disclosure from a peer who had been harassed, stalked, sexually assaulted or raped. About half of these respondents said they felt prepared to help their peer.

Over 70 percent of respondents who indicated that they had experienced sexual assault said that the assault occurred in the context of alcohol use.

About half of respondents did not know where to look for more information about Emory’s sexual assault resources for students, including those offered by Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), the Respect Program and Title IX Coordinators.

Two-thirds of students said that it is moderately likely to very likely that the administration will take a report of sexual assault seriously. About half of respondents said it is moderately likely to very likely that the administration will take corrective action against an offender.

Emory College students’ overall faith in the administration’s response to sexual assault incidents is encouraging, according to Sales. However, “it doesn’t mean there is no room for improvement,” she said.

The Survey

For a census-based survey, the demographic was well-represented, Sales said. Respondents included 1,061 Emory College undergraduates, 211 Oxford College respondents and 1,341 graduate students.

About two-thirds of respondents identified as women, about one-third identified as men and 0.4 percent identified as transgender. Less than one percent of respondents did not specify their gender.

The Association of American Universities (AAU) invited Emory to participate in its Campus Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct last November, but Emory decided to conduct its own survey so that it could have control over what questions would be included, Sales said.

The committee drew questions from several previously distributed surveys, including those from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, the University of Oregon and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Included in the survey were yes-or-no responses, multiple choice questions and agree-or-disagree statements, such as “If a girl doesn’t say ‘no’ she can’t claim rape.” 

The Emory survey did have its limitations. For one, no explicit control was available against which to evaluate students’ responses because of differences in wording and sampling between schools, according to Kathleen Krause, co-chair for the Campus Climate Survey Subcommittee.

The committee could not publicly release the results and the number of respondents for each specific question, due to student confidentiality.

This survey comes in light of last year’s U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) investigation of Emory, along with 54 other U.S. colleges. The investigation would examine Emory’s handling of sexual violence reports and address a compliance review that had been pending since 2013, but did not suggest that Emory had violated any laws. Emory cooperated with the investigation. 

The Upshot

Emory’s results aligned with national statistics, said Krause, who is also a Ph.D. candidate at the Rollins School of Public Health.

“[Sexual assault is] not unique to Emory, not unique to Atlanta and not unique to Georgia,” Sales said, adding that cross-university dialogues could be effective.

Moving forward, the committee plans to take small steps to ensure the survey’s accuracy and to ensure that the Emory community is aware of the University’s preventative strategies. Results from a faculty and staff climate survey will be released in spring 2016.

The committee recommended that Emory strengthen its prevention strategies, increase bystander awareness programs and fine-tune alcohol and drug education strategies.

The committee can now decide what is known to the community and what isn’t, according to Andrew Rizzo, assistant director for the Respect Program. Rizzo works with the Senate’s prevention planning subcommittee.

Sexual violence cannot be dismissed considering its occurrence on Emory’s campus, he said.

“[The survey] helps me so I can say that we can’t ignore it here,” he said.

If you have been affected by violence and/or would like to speak with someone, students can get free confidential advocacy and support through Wanda Swan, the Respect Program Advocate, at or 404.727.7388

+ posts | Emily Sullivan (18C) is from Blue Bell, Pa., majoring in international studies and minoring in ethics. She served most recently as news editor. Last summer, she interned with Atlanta Magazine. Emily dances whenever she can and is interested in the relationship between journalism and human rights issues.