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Results of BYU’s second Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault

Brigham Young University has released the results of its second Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault, showing that more than 90 percent of its students believe sexual harassment is not tolerated at the university. The survey also points to the need for more training on the prevention of sexual assault and the awareness of campus services.

A total of 13,451 students completed the survey, for a response rate of 42 percent — a rate that exceeds the typical response to similar surveys at other institutions.

The survey is an important tool for BYU to assess incidents of sexual misconduct, awareness of resources for victims and perceptions of the campus on this issue.

“Repeating the Campus Climate Survey regarding sexual assault provides a way for us to assess the ever-changing population of students,” said Ben Ogles, a BYU professor of clinical psychology who was a member of the survey committee. “It also allows us to see if our efforts to inform and train are helpful. Importantly, like the survey in 2017, we had excellent student participation in the second survey, a higher rate than most other schools, so we can be reasonably confident that the findings are representative of our student body.”

A full report with key findings of the campus climate survey is available online. Administered in the spring of 2021, the majority of questions asked students about their experiences in the last 12 months while attending BYU.

“This resulted in a unique climate survey,” said Rosemary Thackeray, who oversaw the survey committee in her role as assistant to the president for Assessment and Planning. “In the spring of 2020, BYU utilized remote instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then a hybrid model during the following fall and winter semesters. Additionally, typical on-campus experiences were limited or canceled.”

The report notes that not only did this contribute to a unique campus environment but “also each student having a unique campus experience.”

While this context is important, it does not diminish the findings, said Ogles. “The results of the survey in 2021 show both areas of progress and the need for continuing effort compared to the 2017 survey.”

Areas of progress:

  • Students are better informed and have fewer misconceptions about sexual assault compared to 2017. 
  • Students are better informed about campus resources.
  • Students believe that if they were sexually assaulted their case would be taken seriously.  

Areas for improvement:

  • Too many students are unaware of Title IX office services.
  • Too many survivors of sexual assault do not report incidents of unwanted sexual assault to any formal source of assistance.
  • Too many students continue to be confused about the Title IX reporting structure, including the university’s amnesty statement.

Additionally, Ogles said, the rates of unwanted sexual contact are similar to 2017. “Although these rates are low compared to many college campuses, no unwanted sexual contact is acceptable. We need to continue to help students learn about consent since most unwanted sexual contact occurs within an existing relationship.”

Of the students completing the survey, 4.7 percent experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact during the 12 months prior to the survey. Incidents of unwanted sexual contact were most frequently perpetrated by someone the victim knows.

Tiffany Turley, BYU’s Title IX Coordinator and a member of the survey committee, says the survey responses point to a need for more communication about the work of her office and the services offered at BYU. The majority of students responding, however, reported that BYU is doing a good job of providing needed services to survivors of sexual assault. Additionally, the responses show that 78% of the survey participants thought that if they were sexually assaulted their case would be taken seriously, and they would be treated with dignity and respect (82 percent).

“I’m grateful to see that so many students recognize the efforts we are making to ensure victims of sexual assault have access to helpful and effective resources,” said Turley. “Whether that be through our office, Sexual Assault Survivor Advocacy Services, CAPS or other areas, the university has tremendous resources to assist victims. It’s encouraging to see that 77 percent of students surveyed recognize this.”

There are three offices on campus where students can go for help and can speak with someone confidentially:

Sexual Assault Survivor Advocacy Services 1500 Wilkinson Center
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) 1500 Wilkinson Center
Women’s Services and Resources 3326 Wilkinson Center

The survey responses pointed to another area where Turley and her office are currently focusing their attention — education and training on preventing sexual assault, with nearly half of participants reporting they had not received such training.

“There is always more to do when it comes to training and awareness,” said Turley. “It goes without saying that the worldwide pandemic impacted campus and students’ experiences in far-reaching ways, and our office was not immune to those challenges, particularly as it relates to training on these important issues.”

As in so many areas, the pandemic brought about new ways of learning, added Turley. “From it all, we’ve learned new and different ways of doing things, and we have some exciting things in the works for our student trainings. We will also continue our Just Ask presentations, Voices of Courage and Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaigns, and co-sponsored events with the Students Together Against Sexual Assault club.”

The BYU survey was modeled after the U.S. Department of Justice’s Campus Climate Survey Validation Study. Joining Thackeray, Ogles and Turley on the survey committee were Bob Ridge, applied social psychology, BYU; and Eric Jenson, Assessment and Planning, BYU.

For more information about BYU’s Title IX Office services or to report an incident, please visit the Title IX website.

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