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MIT's Sexual Assault Survey Is Disturbingly Revealing

'Rare' report on attitudes finds distressing amount of victim-blaming
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 28, 2014 11:33 AM CDT
MIT's Sexual Assault Survey Is Disturbingly Revealing
MIT's study is said to be one of the most open surveys on sexual assault and sexual harassment ever done.   (Shutterstock)

MIT has released the results of a sexual assault and sexual harassment survey that takes a look not only at the stats, but also at the incredibly detailed "experiences and attitudes" that accompany such cases on campus, the New York Times reports. At least 17% of undergrad women and 5% of undergrad men surveyed say they've been sexually assaulted—but activists are mainly hailing the report for re-examining perceptions regarding the subject, especially since some of the respondents didn't consider certain types of "unwanted sexual contact" to be "assault." A significant number of students had also heard sexist or crude sexual remarks or unsavory comments about people's bodies, though only a relatively small percentage considered that sexual harassment.

Some of the most disturbing parts of the survey—which received responses from about 35% of MIT's undergrad and grad students—were revelations about how students assign blame in assault cases. Two-thirds of undergrads said "rape and sexual assault can happen unintentionally, especially if alcohol is involved," while one-third said it can happen when "men get carried away." Perhaps most troublesome: the 20% of students who think sexual assault happens when the victim isn't clear enough in his or her refusal, and the same number who say an inebriated victim is "at least somewhat responsible." An Oklahoma State University professor who researches campus sexual assault tells the Times that these types of responses are examples of "excusing the perpetrator and blaming the victim." (FSU has come under fire for the way it's handled rape reports.)

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