Pilot White House Mandated Campus Climate Survey Did End Up Ignoring Male Victims

Almost a year ago I wrote a post about the correspondence I had with the pilot survey project which the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault tasked Rutgers University to do. I expressed my concern with the methodology suggested by the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault in their recommendations published in April 2014.

My impression from the email exchange I had with the project team leader at Rutgers University were that they took my concerns about male victims not being measured by some of the recommended methodologies seriously and they assured me that they would be using gender neutral questions.They also said they would include my concerns in the pilot project’s feedback to the White House and the Office on Violence against Women.

The 2nd of September Rutgers University published a report with the findings from their Campus Climate survey. Which is an opportunity for me to examine to what extent my concerns were considered.

Rutgers University’s Findings

When looking at the key findings section of the report one immediately sees that while it mentions women, the general student population and LGBT students, men are not. It states that 1 in 5 women have experienced unwanted sexual contact and that LGB experiences unwanted sexual contact 2-3 times as often as the other students.

In fact when one take a look at the different tables in the report one notices a peculiar choice of categorization of respondents:

  • All (n=10,794)
  • Graduate Students (n=2,198)
  • Undergraduates (n=8,596)
  • Undergraduate women (n=5,403)

Respondents who stated they identified as something else (transgender male, transgender woman, other) than man or woman made up less than 1% of the sample.

This effectively obscures the rate of victimization of male students.

Also of note is the fact that female respondents are overrepresented in the sample.

Here is a re-production of table 14 page 25 combined with table 15 on page 26 in the report:

All (n=10,794) Graduate Students (n=2,198) Undergraduates (n=8,596) Undergraduate Women (n=5,403)
n % n % n % n %
Unwanted sexual contact involving physical force (Questions 2 & 4) 923 8% 130 6% 793 9% 702 13%
Unwanted sexual contact involving threats of physical force (Questions 3 & 5) 699 6% 100 5% 569 7% 511 9%
Unwanted sexual contact involving physical threats, threats of physical force or coercion (Questions 2, 3, 4, & 5) 1048 10% 146 7% 906 11% 803 15%
Attempted, but not completed unwanted sexual contact (Questions 4 & 5) 906 8% 126 6% 780 9% 701 13%
Unwanted sexual contact that occurred when respondent could not consent (Questions 6 & 7) 600 5% 63 3% 537 6% 473 9%
Any unwanted sexual contact since coming to Rutgers 1404 13% 178 8% 1,226 14% 1,072 20%

Page 11 gives this reason for not including male victimization rates:

Table 3, as well as several tables in subsequent sections, show results for four groups of respondents
who took the survey: all respondents, graduate students, undergraduates, and undergraduate women.
Subgroup analysis for undergraduate women was conducted because members of this group are
consistently shown to have a disproportionally high risk of experiencing sexual violence. However, men
can experience sexual violence too, and members of other groups also have elevated risk. Future
analyses will explore these and other related issues, examining victimization among LGB students,
transgender and non-cisgender students, and men.

Frankly, that’s not good enough.

The analysis effort of including columns for male and transgender respondents is trivial – at least for the prevalence numbers (table 14 and 15). This choice to exclude male victims from the first report from this Campus Climate Survey will only serve to cement the impression that sexual violence on campus is an issue that only affects women. All the articles in the media will talk about female victims while male victims will continue to be overlooked. Discussion on prevention efforts will be focused on female victims and male perpetrators.

So, What is The Male Victimization Rate?

I will attempt to calculate an estimate of the victimization rate among undergraduate male students using the following information and assumptions:

  • Assuming that all 62 respondents (15 transgender men, 4 (less than 5) transgender women, 18 other and 25 missing) who did not identify as either man or women (p. 9) weren’t excluded from the results.
  • By using the information from the summary section (p. 5) to extrapolate that transgendered, other-gendered has  victimization rate three times that of the overall student population. To err on the safe side I am going to postulate that the respondents not giving their gender also are victimized three times as often as well:

    Consistent with national research on sexual violence rates among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) populations, students who did not identify as 100 percent heterosexual had two to three times higher odds of experiencing sexual violence both before coming to Rutgers–New Brunswick and since becoming a college students, as compared to their counterparts.

  • By using the information in table 14 and 15 where both n and % for the different categories and victimization types are given.
  • For each entry I calculated the N Undergraduate transgender, other or missing by multiplying the undergraduate victimization rate for each victimization category by 3 and multiplying that rate with the 62 respondents who had selected transgender, other or missing as their gender. N of male victims was then calculated by N Undergraduates – N Undergraduate Women – N Undergraduate transgender, other or missing.

I then get this resulting table:

Undergraduate Transgender, Other or missing (n=62) Undergraduate Men (n=3,131 (8,596-5,403-62)) Undergraduate Women (n=5,403)
n % n % n %
Unwanted sexual contact involving physical force (Questions 2 & 4) 17 27% (9% x 3) 75 2.4% 702 13%
Unwanted sexual contact involving threats of physical force (Questions 3 & 5) 13 21% (7% x 3) 45 1.4% 511 9%
Unwanted sexual contact involving physical threats, threats of physical force or coercion (Questions 2, 3, 4, & 5) 20 33% (11% x 3) 83 2.6% 803 15%
Attempted, but not completed unwanted sexual contact (Questions 4 & 5) 17 27% (9% x 3) 62 2% 701 13%
Unwanted sexual contact that occurred when respondent could not consent (Questions 6 & 7) 11 18% (6% x 3) 53 1.7% 473 9%
Experienced any unwanted sexual contact since coming to Rutgers 26 42% (14% x 3) 128 4.1% 1072 20%

According to this Rutgers University has 50.4% female and 49.6% male undergraduates. So every 6th person who is a victim of unwanted sexual contact while studying at Rutgers University is completely overlooked by this report and it’s recommendations.

Every 6th victim swept under the rug with a vague promise that they will be considered later.





Rutgers University’s Questionnaire

Rutgers Univeristy also said they would base their questionnaire on the one developed by Krebs et al in their CSA – The Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) study. At the time I didn’t have access to the questionnaire used in the CSA study, but I have since obtained the questionnaire from the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research. The CSA study did indeed ask respondents if they had been made to have sexual intercourse without their consent, but it only asked women this question – thus excluding any male victims which were made to have sexual intercourse with a woman without his consent (see page 12 and 14 in the CSA questionnaire for examples).

Earlier this month Rutgers University published the results of their Campus Climate Survey. I’ll address their questionnaire first.

When it comes to questions regarding victimization Rutgers have basically kept the definition of sexual assault/sexual violence from Krebs et al while excluding most questions about specific types of victimization and replacing it questions asking about unwanted sexual contact or attempts thereof by physical force, coercion or threats or when the victim was unable to consent or stop what was happening due to being passed out, drugged, drunk, incapacitated or asleep.

As far as I can see Rutgers does not exclude male respondents from any of these questions.

Unwanted sexual contact is not explicitly defined, but directly preceeding the questions are a definition of sexual assault and sexual violence:

“Sexual assault” and “sexual violence” refer to a range of behaviors that are unwanted by the recipient and include remarks about physical appearance, persistent sexual advances that are undesired by the recipient, threats of force to get someone to engage in sexual behavior, as well as unwanted touching and unwanted oral, anal or vaginal penetration or attempted penetration.

This change to replace more specific question with a much smaller set of questions regarding “unwanted sexual contact” was done to shorten the survey in order to increase response rates. This goes against the recommendation in the project’s Lesson Learned document:

It is also recommended that each section of questions is introduced with a very clear definition of the behaviors, including:
• non-contact unwanted sexual experiences,
• unwanted sexual contact,
• sexual penetration,
• sexual contact,
• completed and attempted sexual violence,
• physically forced sexual violence,
• threatened sexual violence, and
• coerced sexual violence.

So it seems they sacrificed some accuracy for a higher response rate. Unfortunately they also sacrificed the possibility to examine what type of sexual victimization students are most at risk for experiencing. Not even properly defining such as vague term as sexual contact further reduced the informational value of the results. Information which I would think would be very important when considering different strategies to reduce unwanted sexual contact on campus.

I would find the recommendation better if they would’ve used the term sexual intercourse rather than sexual penetration.


Rutgers’ response

I have been in contact with the same person at Rutgers relaying much of the criticism I’ve voiced above in this post. Again she would share my feedback with her team. She noted that they after their analysis weren’t satisfied with the choice to use just one victimization category (unwanted sexual contact) and that is why they recommend a more specific approach in their lessons learned document. She also stated that they had done some analysis on male victimization and they provided those numbers to some reporters who called. They are also looking in analyzing victimization for men, lgbt and ethnic groups and are discussing how to convey these results when they’re done.


All in all I am sorely disappointed given the email exchange I had with Rutgers University a year ago.


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