Over 40 percent of undergraduate women say they have experienced a sexual assault since enrolling at Tulane, according to survey results made public Wednesday.
For male undergraduates, the rate was 18 percent. Those shares appear somewhat higher than what many other schools have reported in recent years, although comparisons are difficult because survey methods vary.
Tulane’s survey defined sexual assault as unwanted sexual contact, such as fondling, as well as rape and attempted rape.
Tulane President Michael A. Fitts called the findings “deeply disturbing” and pledged an expanded campaign to end sexual violence.
The report from the 13,000-student private research university adds to growing evidence that sexual assault is a widespread problem on campuses throughout America.
The Association of American Universities reported that 23 percent of female undergraduates surveyed that year at 27 research universities said they had been victims of sexual assault and misconduct. The prevalence rate in that study ranged as high as 30 percent at the universities of Michigan and Southern California.
Fifty-three percent of its undergraduates and 31 percent of graduate students responded to the online questionnaire, giving university officials confidence that the results provided an accurate — and sobering — view of their campus climate.
Among the findings:
● Students who are lesbian, gay or bisexual reported experiencing sexual assault at higher rates than those who are not.
● Fewer than half of undergraduate women and a quarter of undergraduate men who are victims of sexual misconduct disclose those experiences to anyone.
● Students appeared to have confidence in Tulane. Eighty-four percent of undergraduates who said they had experienced sexual misconduct said the university did or would provide them with needed support. Most victims also said they would recommend attending Tulane.
● Among graduate students, 16 percent of women and 8 percent of men reported experiencing sexual assault.
The study found links between sexual violence and alcohol, with a large majority of the attacks occurring when the victims were incapacitated and unable to provide consent. “It’s very, very important to note that in no way, shape or form is this blaming or holding victims responsible,” Fitts said. “Alcohol is a tool of perpetrators.”
Drinking is deeply ingrained in the campus culture, as it is at many schools. The study found that 43 percent of undergraduate men and 39 percent of undergraduate women drink three or more times a week.
When they do imbibe, many say they drink a lot: 16 percent of women and 39 percent of men report typically having seven or more drinks on those occasions. Fitts said that, too, is an issue Tulane wants to address. He noted that fraternities and sororities recently stopped serving hard liquor at parties. “We’ve made a very concerted effort to reduce excessive drinking on the Tulane campus,” he said.