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MIT Survey Reveals Prevalence of Sexual Assault on Campuses

MIT has attempted to put a precise estimate on the prevalence of sexual violence on its campus in a comprehensive survey taken anonymously by its students.

According to results, which were published on Monday, about one in six female undergraduates at MIT who responded reported being sexually assaulted at least one time while enrolled at the university. 5 percent of those respondents said they reported the crime, according to results released Monday by the school. The Boston Globe reported that 3,800 students responded to the survey out of 10,800 who were invited to participate.

According to The Boston Globe, “MIT became the highest-profile college to put such a specific estimate on the prevalence of sexual violence on campus, amid heightened national attention on the issue. Many schools have been hesitant to conduct such surveys, but advocates have urged colleges to do so because victims are more likely to reveal that they were assaulted if they can remain anonymous. Undergraduates, in particular, are viewed as most at risk.”

MIT university president L. Rafael Reif said in a mass email sent to students and faculty of the school, that he was “disturbed by the extent and nature of the problem” reflected in the survey results.

“Sexual assault violates our core MIT values,” Reif wrote. “I am confident that, with this shared understanding and armed with this new data, the MIT community will find a path to significant positive change.”

All together, 17 percent of female undergraduates and 5 percent of male respondents at the school reported being sexual assaulted while on campus. This included experiencing unwanted behaviors, the use of force or physical threat, and being assaulted while impaired by drugs and/or alcohol or incapacitated. These numbers reflect the nationwide estimate of total campus sexual assaults by the US Justice Department. In addition to shedding light on the prevalence of sexual assault on campus, the survey also spotlighted unwanted sexual behavior including sexual harassment. Results were staggering compared to sexual assaults with 35 percent of female respondents reporting having been sexually harassed.

What’s more disturbing was that the majority of the acts (80%) reported in the survey occurred on campus, and about 72 percent of the acts were perpetrated by another student. More than 20 percent of undergraduate respondents said they know someone who is a perpetrator and more than 50 percent of respondents who knew the perpetrator did not confront the person or take any action, according to The Globe.

In addition to establishing the prevalence of the acts, the survey revealed other compelling findings including the effects of sexual assault on victims. About a third of victims said they were unable to work or complete assignments, unable to eat, or experienced a drop in grades. A majority of student respondents said they take steps to prevent assault, including leaving a party with people they arrived with or offering to walk an intoxicated friend home, The Globe reported.

Sexual assault is a serious crime typically handled by law enforcement, yet what many victims do not realize is that aside from filing criminal charges against the perpetrator, they may also be eligible to file a civil claim against the attacker or institution employing the perpetrator. What that means is the schools at which the alleged attacker is enrolled has the responsibility to thoroughly investigate the incident and administer the necessary disciplinary action.

At the law firm of Altman & Altman, our attorneys do not prosecute offenders for crimes we may be able to counsel victims and their families who wish to file a claim for compensation for the abuse they suffered. Often, victims believe it is impossible to collect compensation against their attacker since the abuser may have little or no assets, yet there are instances where parties who did not play an active part in the abuse will be civilly liable because they had a duty to investigate the incident and administer appropriate punishment, or they did not do their duty to prevent the incident. Cases like this may go in conjunction with negligent security cases.

If you or a loved one was the victim of a sexual crime, call the law offices of Altman & Altman to discuss your rights with an experienced Boston Civil Litigation Attorney. Our experienced team of civil litigation attorneys understands the hardships victims and their families face after this type of incident, and we will stand by your side throughout the entire process and aggressively pursue your lawsuit against all liable parties. In addition to the outstanding legal counsel you will receive, our firm has access to some of the finest psychological and medical professionals in the Commonwealth. We have represented hundreds of individuals and have recovered millions of dollars in settlements, claims, and jury awards on behalf of our clients. Our attorneys are available around the clock to answer any questions you have about your case, and all initial consultations are free and completely confidential.