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Report On Sexual Assault At UT Austin Is A 'Wake-Up Call' To Community

Trey Shaar
A new survey on the prevalence of sexual assault at UT Austin finds 15 percent of undergraduate women reported that they had been raped.

Fifteen percent of undergraduate women at the University of Texas at Austin say they have been raped, according to a report released Friday.

The report is part of a larger study conducted across the University of Texas system. The survey of more than 28,000 students also found that 18 percent of students say they experienced “unwanted sexual touching,” and 12 percent say they experienced attempted rape.  

The numbers might sound familiar. The Association of American Universities released a similar campus climate report in 2015.

UT Austin President Greg Fenves said in a statement to students and faculty that the new report is a “wake-up call” to the community.

“This survey reveals a problem in our university, as well as society, that has existed in the shadows for too long,” he said.

NoëlBusch-Armendariz, the associate vice president for research and director of the Institute of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, was the principal investigator for the report. She said the university data aligns with national numbers of sexual assault and rape.

“We actually line up with the national average,” Busch-Armendariz said at a press conference. “So to the average person, 15 percent of undergraduate females experiencing rape seems like a high number. The truth is, that has been a number that we should have been paying attention to as a society for a very long time.”

She said she was concerned about the numbers, though, “because they’re attached to people’s lives.”

“What we need to report are how do we move toward solutions, because that will actually end these issues,” Busch-Armendariz said.

UT Austin plans to take new steps, including enhancing sexual violence prevention initiatives, addressing a culture of perpetration and developing a faculty and staff education plan with a specific focus on sexual misconduct and harassment. 

The report also found that 24 percent of students say they have experienced sexual harassment specifically by faculty or staff at UT Austin.

“We want to ensure that every student feels comfortable coming forward, reporting their experiences and knowing that we will investigate and that we will discipline employees appropriately related to sexual harassment,” MaurieMcInnis, executive vice president and provost of UT Austin, said at the press conference.

Reports of sexual violence are not unfamiliar to the UT Austin community. Last year, a 17-year-old was indicted on capital murder charges for the sexual assault that led to the homicide of student Haruka Weiser. University officials and Austin police investigated the sexual assault of a UT student near campus earlier this month.

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