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UNM survey: 11% of women report being forced to engage in sex

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

A survey of 3,000 students reveals what University of New Mexico administrators likely already knew: More work is needed to address sexual misconduct issues with 11 percent of women saying they had been forced to have nonconsensual intercourse, oral sex or some other form of unwanted sexual contact in the past year.

And about 25 percent of the students surveyed said they had experienced sexual harassment in the past year.

A strong majority, roughly 80 percent, believe UNM “takes sexual misconduct complaints seriously,” and three in four students said UNM does a “good job” of providing services to those who have experienced sexual assault.

Of those who said they had been forced to have sex, three in five didn’t report the incident because “they did not think it was serious enough to report.”

The survey focused on students’ sexual activity and whether those actions were consensual.

The survey results were reported at a Board of Regents meeting Thursday.

UNM President Bob Frank said in a statement after the meeting that he was pleased students recognize the university’s efforts to address sexual assault.

“Sexual misconduct won’t just go away, and it has a terrible social and emotional cost. Tough as it is, I’m glad we are united in our resolve to improve,” Frank said.

May Sagbakken, director of the New Mexico Rape Crisis Center of Central New Mexico, said the percentage of students who have been assaulted or harassed should alarm students, parents and the school’s administration.

“While I appreciate that President Frank and the University Administration have taken some steps to address sexual assault on campus, the fact is that they simply haven’t done enough.” Sagbakken said Thursday in a statement. “Parents deserve to know their students are safe and students deserve to be able to learn in a climate that’s free from sexual violence.”

The report comes on the heels of a critical U.S. Department of Justice report that found UNM had failed to comply with federal gender anti-discrimination laws. Frank and staff announced this survey earlier this year ahead of the DOJ findings.

The university has since made changes to the way it handles sexual misconduct, including streamlining its investigative process and requiring sexual misconduct prevention training for students.

The release of the survey results also happens at a time when the university has come under fire for the sexual misconduct investigation of anthropology professor Cristobal Valencia.

That investigation found cause to believe Valencia had improperly touched students and appeared to cultivate female students for possible sexual relations. He was suspended, censured and reinstated before again being suspended in connection to new complaints.

The survey, taken over six weeks, also found that roughly 27 percent of students said they had been raped in their lifetime.

About 90 percent of male undergraduate and graduate students said they felt “relatively safe from sexual misconduct at UNM,” whereas only 61 percent of female undergraduates and 68 percent of female graduates would say the same. About 31 percent of women said they were sexually harassed within the past year. In contrast, 12 percent of men reported the same.

Asked about “unwanted sexual experiences,” roughly 96 percent of undergraduate women said their perpetrator was a man. In contrast, about 60 percent of men said their perpetrator was a woman.

The report also found Hispanic students were at higher risk for sexual assault than their white counterparts. The story was the same for LGBT students compared with heterosexual students. Additionally, students who are members of sororities or fraternities and those who live in university housing were at a higher risk for sexual assault or harassment.

In 2015, a similar survey was given to the Association of American Universities, a group that includes Harvard University and the University of Texas at Austin.

The survey of roughly 150,000 students at 27 universities found that nearly 12 percent of students suffered “nonconsenual sexual contact” since they started school.

About 63 percent of those responding to that survey said they believed that their complaints would be taken seriously by campus officials.