Every year The Harvard Crimson puts together their annual report covering the facts and figures of its graduating seniors. The survey that’s emailed to every senior is optional and includes a variety of topics. One of those topics is sexual assault. For this year’s Class of 2015 by the Numbers almost half the class responded to the survey and what it found is that, even on the most prestigious campus in the world, sexual assault is still a real problem.
Of the 760 students surveyed, 14.4 percent of women said they had been sexually assaulted as some point during their time at Harvard, and 6.5 percent were unsure if they had been the victim of sexual assault or not. According to The Crimson, these numbers are “roughly consistent” with a 2007 study that found 19 percent of women at four-year universities had “experienced a completed or attempted sexual assault during their time in college.” Of those who had experienced sexual assault, or were unsure if they had, only six percent reported it.
When it comes to how many students know of someone who had been sexually assaulted, that number was in the majority at 55 percent. The survey also found that students who identified as something other than heterosexual were twice as likely to be sexually assaulted.
But as much as we think of sexual assault as being just something with which women have to contend, the reality is that men can be the victims as well. According to The Crimson’s findings, 2.95 percent of men were sexually assaulted while being students at Harvard.
While these numbers are proof of an obvious problem on college campuses, a recent survey by Gallup for Inside Higher Ed found that only six percent of college presidents felt that sexual assault was an issue at their university. On a grander scale, 32 percent of them felt sexual assault was a problem nationwide on American campuses. So, in other words, never underestimate the power of denial.
In the end, as long as we live in a culture that lives under the guise of “boys will be boys” and a society where sexual assault victims are shamed, the problem will not go away. No matter how iconic and prestige the university or the how much a student spends on tuition, women (and men) will continue to be at risk.