One in six female Princeton undergraduates said they experienced "non-consensual vaginal penetration" during their time at the University, according to an unpublished survey from 2008 — as in five years ago — that was recently leaked to The Daily Princetonian. The numbers suggest that rates of sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus may be significantly higher than the rates at which they are actually reported or adjudicated. But they're on par with national averages, which is likely why Princeton didn't think the report was worth publicizing. If we pretend elite college students aren't sexually assaulting their peers, the rape fairy will make it all disappear.
The survey's purpose was to "establish and quantify the extent to which Princeton University students experience assault," according to a summary of the survey results. 70 percent of the 1,595 graduate and undergraduate respondents from the classes of 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 were women, but otherwise the demographics were consistent with those of the wider student population. From The Daily Princetonian:
According to the survey, more than 28 percent of female undergraduate students reported that they were touched in a sexual manner or had their clothes removed without consent. About 12 percent said they were forced to receive or perform oral sex, and an additional 14 percent were said they were victims of attempted forced oral sex. Another 6.2 percent of female undergraduate respondents said they experienced attempted non-consensual vaginal penetration.
Of the 809 female undergraduates who filled out the undergraduate female survey, more than 120 answered affirmatively to the statement, "A man put his penis into my vagina, or someone inserted fingers or objects without my consent."
(Emphasis ours; that's where the 1 out of 6 statistic comes from.)
In contrast, forty forcible sex offenses were reported to Public Safety between 2009 and 2011. (Those numbers include all cases reported within the campus but aren't limited to acts allegedly committed by students.) Between 2009 and 2012, five students were disciplined by the Committee on Discipline for acts of sexual misconduct; one was suspended for "an act of non-consensual penetration," two were suspended for sexual assault and two were placed on disciplinary probation for sexual harassment.
Amada Sandoval, Director of the Women's Center, said the results probably weren't released because it wouldn't be fair for Princeton to get bad press when college campuses around the country experience the same rates of rape and sexual assault but don't publicly announce them.
"Anything about Princeton goes international, practically, and no other universities do that, so does Princeton want to be the one to say that this many of our students are sexually assaulted? I don't think so," Sandoval said, adding that she thought there was no "real benefit" to releasing it because "a story that Princeton's rates of students who have been assaulted is on line with national averages is really not a story" and "in this news environment, people would make a big deal about it."
That seems like very faulty logic given that the point of the survey was not to encourage high school students to apply to Princeton's awesome rape-free campus but to help the University "assess the need for survivor support and education services and to utilize the information to improve prevention techniques on the Princeton campus," according to the data summary. The Daily Princetonian reports that it "remains unclear if the data gathered from the survey has been used to influence University policy." Ah, so that's what happens when surveys aren't publicized.
Dante Ricci, who was the volunteer Men's Program coordinator at Princeton's Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources and Education program when it helped conduct the 2008 survey, said he thought the results would've helped convince Princeton students that they weren't immune to sexual assault by virtue of attending an Ivy League institution.
"We got the impression that undergraduate students, even if they accepted the national statistic ... [were] convinced that it probably wasn't so at Princeton," Ricci explained. "We thought if we were going to have a conversation about sexual harassment and assault at Princeton, it would be helpful to know ... the prevalence to better serve students and help students understand the prevalence was at the University specifically."
What if we lived in a country where colleges weren't afraid of confronting the "average" amount of rape and sexual assault taking place on campus? Rape won't go away if you pretend it's not there. Just ask one out of every six Princeton students.
Note: the survey found that one in six female undergraduates reported "non-consensual vaginal penetration," which means they didn't always call it rape. But we go by RAINN's definition of rape, which is "forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration."