HEDS Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey (Spring 2015)

In April 2015, Lawrence participated in a sexual assault campus climate survey conducted by the Higher Education Data Sharing consortium (HEDS).  The survey was administered to 1420 Lawrence University students, and 416 surveys were completed (29%).  Respondents included freshman (31%), sophomores (23%), juniors (24%), and seniors (23%).  A majority of respondents were female (67%) and about one-fifth identified as non-white (19%).  The survey consisted of four sections: general climate, assessing unwanted sexual contact and assault, context and disclosure (given only to those respondents who indicated they were assaulted), and demographics.  Findings were compared with the average survey results from a peer group of 54 private institutions with fewer than 3,500 undergraduates.

Summary of Findings

General Climate

  • Most Lawrence students (90%) agreed that the university respects what they think and is concerned about their welfare, and they report feeling safe on campus.  A lower number (75%) agreed that students are treated fairly and care about the welfare of other students.  Both rates are slightly higher than peer institutions (by 2-6%).
  • A majority of students (65%) agreed that Lawrence has a good support system for students going through difficult times and handles incidents in a fair and responsible manner.  A larger majority (71%) agreed that campus officials respond quickly in difficult situations.  This is noticeably higher than peer institutions (by 16%).


  • Both females (11%) and males (2%) reported experiencing unwanted sexual comments, advances, or jokes often or very often.  Females (3%) also reported experiencing unwanted sexual messages, images, or gestures often or very often.  Both females (6%) and males (2%) reported experiencing unwanted brief physical contact often or very often.  These rates are consistent with peer institutions.
  • Both females (12%) and males (3%) reported an attempted sexual assault since starting at Lawrence, and slightly higher rates of females (14%) and males (4%) reported a completed sexual assault.  Of those who reported an assault, the majority (61%) reported more than one incident, and some (22%) reported more than one assailant.  These rates are slightly higher than peer institutions (by 2-7%).
  • Survey rates for sexual assault were higher than the annual crime statistics report (Clery report), indicating an underreporting of sexual assault.


  • Sexual assaults involved unwanted touching (91%), vaginal sex (47%), oral sex (21%), anal sex (6%), or vaginal or anal penetration with a finger or object (3%).  Assaults by more than one assailant involved higher rates of touching (100%) and penetration by a finger or object (18%) and lower rates of vaginal (27%), oral (9%), or anal sex (0%).
  • About one-third of assaults involved coercion or threat (38%) or the use of physical force (29%).  Force was less common in incidents involving multiple assailants (18%), which had higher rates of incapacitation (see Alcohol & Drugs).


  • Most sexual assaults (76%) were by a single person, similar to peer institutions.  A significant number (22%) involved multiple assailants.
  • Most, though not all, assailants were males (94%), and nearly all (97%) were Lawrence students.  All female victims had male assailants.  Male victims had male or female assailants.
  • Most assailants were non-romantic friends or acquaintances (59%) or casual dates or hookups (29%).  Assaults with multiple assailants reported higher rates of non-romantic friends or acquaintances (91%) and strangers (46%).

Time & Location

  • Most assaults occurred in the first (65%) or second (24%) year on campus, and most (91%) occurred in a residential building.  For assaults involving more than one assailant, a larger number occurred in the first year (80%), and all occurred in a residential building.

Alcohol & Drugs

  • Alcohol had been consumed by the vast majority of assailants (86%) and by most victims (64%).  Drugs had been used often by assailants (31%) and less often by victims (9%).  In some cases (11%), victims were given a drug without their knowledge.
  • Consent was not provided in over one-third of assaults (38%) due to incapacitation: being passed out, drunk, drugged, or asleep.  Lack of consent due to incapacitation was more common for incidents involving more than one assailant (55%).


  • Victims most commonly confided in a close friend (88%).  Next most common were a romantic partner (30%), roommate (21%), on-campus counselor (20%), parent (15%), or private counselor (14%).  Victims were less likely to tell faculty, staff, or administrators (12%).  Females and white students were more likely than others to tell someone about the assault.
  • For assaults with more than one assailant, victims were less likely to confide in a close friend (55%) but more likely to confide in a roommate (37%).  Next most common were a romantic partner (28%), on-campus counselor (18%), parent (18%), or private counselor (9%).  Reports were slightly higher to campus officials (18%).
  • In more than one-third of assaults involving multiple assailants (37%), victims told no one.  The most common reason was because they thought they would be blamed (75%).  Other common reasons were that they felt ashamed or embarrassed (50%), did not recognize it as assault at the time (50%), or wanted to forget it happened (50%).


  • The majority of students (79%) reported receiving information or education about sexual assault, but only half reported receiving information about how to report an incident (51%) and how to locate confidential resources on campus (54%).  Less than one-third (28%) reported receiving information about the procedures for investigating a sexual assault.  A larger number (70%) reported receiving information about actions they could take to prevent sexual assault.  These numbers were on average lower than the peer institutions (by 7%).
  • Rates were higher for freshmen, the only class to have completed the Think About It program when entering Lawrence.

Changes Since the HEDS Survey

Since the time of the survey (spring 2015), the university has taken the actions listed below to improve the campus climate.  The effects of these actions will be measured in part by the next HEDS survey, scheduled for spring 2017.

  1. Revised the sexual misconduct policy and procedures to make them clearer and more effective.
  2. Changed the sexual harassment and assault resource board into SHARE: Sexual Harassment and Assault Resources & Education and increased the group’s focus on education, support, and advocacy.
  3. Designated faculty, staff, and student members of SHARE as confidential advocates for members of the Lawrence community who have experienced sexual harassment or assault.
  4. Created a comprehensive SHARE website and app to provide ready access to support, education, and online reporting, and to highlight ways to get involved in improving the campus climate.
  5. Provided Title IX training to all employees on the new policy, reporting requirements, the SHARE website and app, and the role of SHARE Advocates.
  6. Encouraged the activities of student groups who work to increase awareness and prevention of sexual assault and who offer bystander training to other groups on campus.

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