LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The University of Southern California is one of 33 public and private universities that recently took part in a national sexual misconduct survey — four years after the first one — that found 1 in 4 female undergrads reported that they were sexually assaulted on campus nationally.
At USC, that number was 1 in 3.
“That’s not what we want our students to experience while they’re here,” Dr. Sarah Van Orman, chief student health officer at USC, said. “It suggests to us that we have a lot more work do to.”
Van Orman, the principal investigator of the survey on campus, said that while there was only a slight increase in the number of female undergrads who said they were sexually assaulted on campus this year compared to 2015, it was still a big concern.
“In many cases, the student may have been passed out or unable to consent,” she said. “We also know that in the vast majority of the situations for students, the perpetrators were other students, people they knew.”
Van Orman said she was also concerned that USC’s undergraduate women said they were much less confident that the university would take their reports seriously compared to other campuses surveyed. She said some of that may be because of Dr. George Tyndall, the former campus gynecologist accused of sexually abusing hundreds of students at a campus clinic.
“We’ve been through a period of challenge,” Van Orman said. “We’ve been through a period where many in our community have lost trust, so we are in a period of rebuilding.”
While the survey revealed an uptick in sexual assaults on campus, it also found that students were reporting their assaults to the authorities at much higher rates.
“I think USC has done a good job of making people feel like they can report,” Lucy Santora, a senior, said. “However, it’s still a really huge issue that needs to be addressed.”
Van Orman said USC has recently launched efforts to prevent sexual misconduct. The school now has a task force dedicated to prevention education and training and is in the process of hiring confidential victim advocates. The school is also rolling out its first-ever mandatory, in-person training for all incoming freshman to learn about consent.