Is Portland State Doing Enough to Prevent Sexual Assault?


New Survey Says 1 in 7 Female Students Assaulted 

Written by Katherine White
One with Heart Program Coordinator

The results of a survey published last week in The Oregonian show approximately 14 percent of women (1 in 7), and 29 percent of transgendered students in the undergraduate program at Portland State University have experienced some form of sexual assault on or off campus.

Nationwide studies indicate that 20 percent of women say they have been sexually assaulted at college and 50 percent of transgendered students have been sexually assaulted or abused at some point in their life.  While the percentages at PSU may be below the national average, the reality is that 14% translates to more than 1,600 women who have experienced sexual assault while attending the university, most of them under the age of 25.

There is a serious breakdown when it comes to reporting. Only 13 rapes were reported in 2015.  Less than half of the students surveyed knew how to report an incident of assault or harassment.

And less than half of students knew how to access information and support from an advocate. Perhaps this is because there are only 6 staff advocates at PSU. If every female assault survivor asked for support, each advocate would have a caseload of 266. That number does not include transgendered survivors seeking support.

Changing the rape culture requires that colleges make a substantial and sustained investment in the following areas:

·       Education to raise awareness about consent and sexual assault.

·       Training that empowers students to defend themselves.

·       Access to sensitive, non-judgmental support, information and options for survivors of violence.

·       A reporting process that is clear and fair to everyone involved.

·       A system of justice that holds perpetrators accountable which means, among other things, removing offenders from campus.

The PSU survey was done in response to Barack Obama’s 2014 ‘It’s on Us’ campaign and Task Force which directed colleges to become proactive in stopping sexual assault. Obama even threatened to pull federal funding from colleges who fail to take steps to make colleges safer.

We are not likely to see this kind of federal leadership under the current administration. The Trump administration has no policy on sexual assault and Trump himself is dodging dozens of accusations of sexual assault and harassment.

Today it’s on us to stay informed, read between the lines, ask questions and, in a very public way, expect colleges to invest in the safety of every student. This survey provides few answers and raises a lot of questions. Follow the link below to read the Oregonian’s article and link directly to the survey. [i]

If you are interested in learning more about sexual assault on colleges campuses I recommend Jon Krakauer’s book Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town published in 2015.


[i] Theen, Andrew. “PSU Survey: 1 in 7 undergraduate women were victim of sexual assault.” The Oregonian / Oregonian Live. April 4, 2017.

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