Trigger Warning: This article contains discussions of sexual assault as it manifests itself on Amherst’s campus and during the time students spend here. These statistics are important, but often difficult to read. Please take care of yourself while reading.
Last Wednesday at 11 AM, there was a presentation in the Friedmann Room presenting the findings of the survey on Sexual Assault that students may remember finding in their inboxes last October. The presentation was publicized a) in emails sent out to the listserves of the MRC and WGC last Monday, and b) in the Daily Mail (though missing a location for the event). There was also a forum on Monday that was unattended. There were a total of five students at this presentation. Turnout from the survey was large, totaling in at 847 students, making the results reasonably representative of the student body.
The results of the survey are shocking and saddening for two reasons in particular. The first being how prevalent experiences of sexual harassment are on our campus, even three years after Angie Epifano’s article. 80% of current senior women respondents to the survey have been subject to some form of sexual misconduct during their time at Amherst, as well as 36% of men. 9% of all women, and 1% of all men who responded to the survey have experienced rape. 47% of all female students have experienced sexual harassment, as well as 13% of men. Amherst is no longer under the spotlight of media scrutiny, but these numbers should be a reminder to the student body and administration that eliminating sexual assault from Amherst must remain a priority.
The second reason this data is disturbing is the differences in those values between identifying groups. The survey took gender, race, sexual orientation, and class level into account. Transgender respondents were so small in number that their specific data wasn’t presented in order to protect anonymity. As can be seen above, significantly fewer men than women have reported being sexually assaulted. However, that does not mean that the number of men and transgender individuals that experience sexual misconduct is in any way lessened.
In addition to that, students identifying as queer have been stalked more than their straight counterparts (20% vs. 14%), sexually harassed more (44% vs. 31%), and experienced more nonconsensual touching (28% vs. 18%).
Students of color, compared to white students, also experienced more rape (7% vs 5%), stalking (18% vs 13%), and touching (23% vs 17%), though these margins of difference were small enough to not be considered statistically significant by the Title IX team.
The survey also asked questions about whether students thought the Title IX process to be fair. A majority of men (69% vs. 44%) felt the process was fairer to the complainant (the person who reports an incident of sexual misconduct), whereas the majority of women (49% vs. 45%) felt the process was fairer to the respondent (the accused perpetrator of said sexual misconduct). This is significant because under the narrative of a female complainant and a male respondent—statistically, the most frequently occurring narrative—each gender feels there is a bias against them.
Overall, First Years responded that they felt the process was fair for both complainants and respondents. For the complainant, white students felt that the process was fair in much larger numbers than students of color (67% vs. 36%).
This clearly shows that there are disparities between who believes this process to be fair, regardless of what is the “objective” truth.
For those who didn’t receive information about the presentations or weren’t able to attend, this information will be presented online at some point in the near future, When it does, please be sure to share it with your classmates and friends so the student body can be made aware of the results of this survey. This information is of the utmost importance for us as students and members of this community to be aware of, so we can keep in mind that this is a real issue, and that education around sexual assault and consent is, and always will be of the utmost importance.
(Images and statistics courtesy of Amherst College’s Title IX Team)