Key Findings of the Sexual Assault and Misconduct Survey

June 16, 2016

To: John J. Degioia, President
From: Robert M. Groves, Provost
Re: Key Findings of the 2016 Georgetown Sexual Assault and Misconduct Climate Survey

In January 2016, Georgetown administered the survey instrument that was developed by the Association of American Universities (AAU).  Of the 15,608 Georgetown students invited to participate, a total of 7,926 (51%) completed this survey.  This overview summarizes the key findings of the survey.   The full report appears at

Prevalence of Non-Consensual Sexual Contact by Physical Force or Incapacitation. The survey asked students about their experiences of non-consensual sexual contact – sexual penetration (vaginal, anal or oral) or sexual touching (kissing, touching, grabbing, groping or rubbing in a sexual way) – where physical force or incapacitation was used.  The survey defines physical force as someone “… holding you down with his or her body weight, pinning your arms, hitting or kicking you, or using or threatening to use a weapon against you.”  Incapacitation is defined as someone being “… unable to consent or stop what was happening because you were passed out, asleep or incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol.”

Among female undergraduates, 31.0% report having experienced non-consensual sexual contact as a result of physical force or incapacitation since entering Georgetown. Overall, 14.2% of female undergraduates experienced penetration and 23.6% experienced touching by force or incapacitation.  Given that about half of the penetration incidents involved incapacitation, alcohol or drugs play a role in many incidents.  About one in ten male undergraduates (10.8%) report having been a victim1 of non-consensual sexual contact resulting from physical force or incapacitation since entering Georgetown.  Graduate students report lower rates of non-consensual sexual contact than undergraduates.

For the academic year 2015-16, there is variation across groups in the risk of experiencing non-consensual sexual contact by force or incapacitation.  Among female undergraduates, the prevalence rate for freshmen (21.3%) was twice the rate of seniors (10.4%) for this year.  Among male undergraduates, freshmen (7.5%) also showed a higher prevalence rate than seniors (3.9%).  A minority of victims of non-consensual penetration or sexual touching by force or incapacitation elected to report incidents to a program or organization.  About one in four female victims (22.8%) of forcible penetration reported an assault, while only 9.7% of female victims of forcible touching reported their incidents. 

Prevalence of Non-Consensual Sexual Contact by Coercion or in the Absence of Affirmative Consent. The survey asked students whether they had experienced sexual contact – sexual penetration or sexual touching – that was the result of coercion or the absence of affirmative consent.  Coercion is defined as sexual contact involving threats of serious non-physical harm or promise of rewards – such as threatening to give bad grades or promising a promotion at work.  Absence of affirmative consent refers to sexual contact without the active, ongoing voluntary agreement of both partners.

Sexual contact involving coercion occurred infrequently at Georgetown.  Only 0.4% of students report coercive sexual contact since enrolling.  More students (6.5%) report experiencing sexual contact in the absence of affirmative consent since entering Georgetown.  Sexual contact in these instances more often entailed touching (4.9%) than penetration (2.7%) among students.

Female undergraduates show the highest prevalence rate (16.8%) for incidents involving the absence of affirmative contact.  Female freshmen (10.0%) report these types of incidents at about twice the rate of seniors (6.0%) for the 2015-16 academic year.  Non-heterosexual students (10.6%) also show higher rates of sexual contact involving absence of affirmative consent than heterosexual students (6.1%) since first enrolling.

Prevalence of Sexual Harassment, Intimate Partner Violence and Stalking.  Students were asked about three additional forms of sexual misconduct: sexual harassment, intimate partner violence and stalking.  The survey defines sexual harassment as behavior that interferes with academics or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive social, academic or work environment – including sexual remarks, offensive comments or jokes, sending offensive photos, etc.  Intimate partner violence is defined as controlling behavior, threatening behavior, or use of physical force against the victim.  Stalking entails repeated behavior that causes victims to fear for their safety – including unwanted phone calls, texts, messages, posts, photos, etc., as well as being followed, watched or spied on.

About half of all students (47.4%) report experiencing sexual harassment since entering Georgetown.  Rates are highest among female undergraduates (75.2%) and TGQN2 undergraduates (85.7%).  Rates are lowest among Georgetown female (37.9%) and male (24.5%) graduate students.  Among the 76.4% of Georgetown students who have been in partner relationships, 5.7% report experiencing intimate partner violence since enrolling.  Prevalence rates are higher among female (8.0%) and male (7.1%) undergraduates and lower among female (4.6%) and male (4.1%) graduate students.  Stalking occurs less frequently at Georgetown than sexual harassment or intimate partner violence.  Among all students, 2.9% report being stalked since enrolling.  Female undergraduates (5.9%) and female graduate students (3.2%) experience the highest rates.  Of those students who reported experiencing stalking, most reported being stalked by another student (62.8%).

Perceptions of Campus Climate. A majority of Georgetown students (61.9%) who responded to the survey think it is “very” or “extremely” likely that campus officials would take seriously a report of sexual assault or misconduct, while 56.1% believe that campus officials would protect the safety of a person making the report.  However, female undergraduates showed less confidence in campus officials, with 40.4% and 37.5% respectively responding in kind.

About one in five Georgetown students (20.4%) suspected that a friend had been sexually assaulted, with female undergraduates reporting this in greater numbers (43.1%).  Of those who suspected that a friend had been sexually assaulted, 62.0% intervened, with about half (54.4%) speaking to a friend or someone else to seek help.  About half of Georgetown students (50.7%) report witnessing a drunken person heading for a sexual encounter, with undergraduates reporting this much more often than graduate students.  Among all of the bystanders who witnessed such a situation, 77.1% indicate they did nothing to intervene, with 24.1% saying they were not sure what to do.

Perceptions of Risk. About one in ten students (11.1%) report that sexual assault or misconduct is “very” or “extremely” problematic at Georgetown.  Female undergraduates were more likely than their graduate counterparts to perceive this as problematic (20.6% vs. 4.8%).  About one in twenty Georgetown students (4.2%) believe they are “very” or “extremely” likely to experience sexual assault or misconduct.  Female undergraduates (12.9%) perceive this risk to be greater than male undergraduates (2.9%) or female graduate students (1.7%).

Knowledge of Policies and Resources.  About one in five students (19.6%) at Georgetown report being “very” or “extremely” knowledgeable about how the University defines sexual assault and sexual misconduct.  Female (25.4%) and male (31.7%) undergraduates show higher rates than female (10.7%) and male (15.4%) graduate students.  About one in four students (24.5%) report being “very” or “extremely” knowledgeable about where to find help at Georgetown if they or a friend are victims of sexual assault or misconduct. Undergraduates show higher rates than graduate students.  18.9% of the students claim to be “very” or “extremely” knowledgeable about where to report an incident of sexual assault or misconduct. Undergraduates exhibit higher rates of knowledge of policies and resources than graduate students.

[1] The term “victim” was used throughout the survey in order to be consistent with terminology of the AAU Survey.

[2] TGQN refers to those students who identify as transgender, genderqueer or non-conforming, questioning or not listed.