An alarming number of 1 in 10 current female students at the University of Oregon have been raped while attending the college, with a vast majority of those sexual assaults never being reported to campus authorities, according to a new sexual violence survey of 982 students released Tuesday by Jennifer Freyd, a professor in the UO's Department of Psychology.
Equally disturbing, only 14 percent of the rape victims -- one in seven -- said they reported the assault to university officials, Reuters reported.
The online survey findings, conducted in late summer by Freyd and doctoral students Marina N. Rosenthal and Carly Parnitzke Smith, comes 29 weeks after the university faced sharp criticism over its conduct of an alleged rape involving three basketball players Brandon Austin, Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson, which eventually preceded the resignation of former university president Michael Gottfredson.
Sex crimes on U.S. college campuses have been declared to be "epidemic" by the White House, with one in five students being sexually assaulted during their college years.
At UO, at least one forced sexual act was encountered by 35 percent of the female respondents and 14 percent of the men without their consent, with 73 percent claiming to have "known their mostly-male perpetrator," The Oregonian reported.
"We think it's terrible," said interim president and provost of the school Scott Coltrane, adding that the findings "reflect the incidence rates that we're hearing from across the country, so that is not a surprise, but there are pieces there that are alarming," specifically the student's lack of trust in reporting the crime to the university.
Lack of reporting about the assaults could occur due to most students' not recognizing rape and sexual assault when it happens to them, or even when they perpetrate it.
"Most of them wouldn't use the word," Freyd continued. "What they're telling us is that someone stuck something inside their vagina or anus without their consent.
"Researchers would say they've been raped. (Students) are reluctant to use the word. They don't want their identity to be that of the victim of a sex crime. It's stigmatizing. And if you're the victim of a sex crime, a lot of people will respond negatively, saying you're at fault, shunning you."
Additionally, four in 10 of the students who dealt with nonconsensual sexual contact also felt they were subjected to what Freyd calls "institutional betrayal."
That ranged from believing UO "made it difficult to report the experience" or that the university fostered an environment "where experience seemed common," The Oregonian reported.
In order to reduce campus assaults and punish offenders, the OU's code of conduct was extended earlier this month to encompass off-campus behavior, with both outside experts and faculty participating to analyze the school's sexual assault policies and prevention programs, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, a letter thanking Freyd, Rosenthal and Smith for the campus climate survey was written by Coltrane on Monday.
"Sexual violence on college campuses is a national concern," Coltrane notes, "and properly addressing this matter is one of our highest concerns. We anticipate that Professor Freyd's work will add to our understanding of the issue, and the UO will consider the findings from her survey in conjunction with climate assessment work that the UO plans to undertake as part of a national effort."
In May, a list of 55 colleges being investigated was released by the U.S. Department of Education to determine whether their handling of sex assaults and harassment violated federal laws. Interestingly, UO was not part of the list.