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PSU releases sexual assault survey results

More than a quarter of female students surveyed at PSU’s main campus said they were victims of sexual assault while at the university, according to results released by Penn State.

More than a quarter of female students surveyed at Pennsylvania State University's main campus said they were victims of sexual assault while at the university, according to results released by Penn State Wednesday.

And 80 percent of female students surveyed said they experienced some kind of behavior that could potentially be considered sexual harassment. Harassing behaviors asked about in the survey ranged from "treated you differently because of your sex" to "sent or posted unwelcome sexual comments, jokes or pictures."

The findings are similar to those from national surveys that have found a high incidence of female students who report they had been assaulted.

"We're troubled by it," said Paul Apicella, a Penn State administrator who oversees sexual misconduct issues. "Those numbers are highlighting for us that we have work to do and that there are a lot of opportunities for improvement."

More than a quarter of the 11,023 undergraduate students who were sent surveys on the University Park campus responded and 41 percent of 4,000 graduate students, the university said.  Enrollment at University Park is 46,848 undergraduate and graduate students.

Penn State also released separate survey results for its other 22 campuses. Fewer students reported they were victims of sexual assault at local branch campuses; at Brandywine and Abington, it was about 13 percent of women.

Collectively, 9,427 students completed the survey, the school said.

The vast majority of students at University Park who said they were harassed, assaulted or a victim of dating violence did not report the incidents to authorities.

It would cause more trouble than it was worth," was the reason most often cited  for not reporting.

Damon Sims, vice president for student affairs, acknowledged it's more common to share an incident with a friend or classmate than a university official or law enforcement.

It's also an impediment to our ability to address the issue," he said.

The survey, conducted last spring, was the first of its kind at Penn State and had been recommended by a university task force on sexual assault.

Women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students reported higher rates of assault and harassment than male students. The survey showed that 6.2 percent of undergraduate men reported at least one incident of sexual assault while at Penn State, compared to 27.5 percent of women and 25 percent of LGBTQ students.

The survey defines sexual assault as any non consensual act that involves completed or attempted penetration. Unwanted touching, kissing or fondling are not included.

More than 20 percent of women assaulted said they were incapacitated from alcohol or drugs when the act occurred.

Most victims said their attacker was another student whom they knew.

One in five undergraduates and nearly 12 percent of graduate students said they experienced some form of stalking since enrolling at Penn State, such as being followed.

More than three quarters of students surveyed said they thought the university would take a report of sexual misconduct seriously.