Campus News

UNC-Chapel Hill releases data on sexual assault and misconduct

Insights from 2019 AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct help Carolina assess existing programs and response, evaluate additional needs.

bell tower in the distance during fall

UNC-Chapel Hill released the results of a survey on sexual harassment and assault Tuesday, in tandem with 32 other universities across the country. Part of an effort led by the Association of American Universities (AAU) to better understand the nature and pervasiveness of sexual assault, harassment, and other misconduct on college campuses, the survey was intended to help universities understand and improve the campus climate for sexual assault and other sexual misconduct.

“The data are very concerning and reinforce what we know to be true both on our campus and across the country: sexual assault and sexual harassment are serious problems that deeply affect our community,” Interim Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz and Interim Vice Chancellor for Workforce Strategy, Equity and Engagement Becci Menghini wrote in a message to the Carolina community.

Carolina’s response rate was 20.8%, an increase from 2015 and above the average response rate for public research universities. Of those, 20.7% of survey respondents at Carolina said they had experienced some sort of unwanted sexual contact, an increase from 16.2% in 2015. Undergraduate women are especially vulnerable to sexual assault. 29.1% of female respondents reported experiencing an instance of unwanted sexual contact since entering college. The rate rises to 45% for female undergraduate respondents in their fourth year or higher.

More than 48% of all respondents at UNC-Chapel Hill reported experiencing at least one type of sexually harassing behavior. Among graduate/professional student respondents who said they’d experienced sexual harassment, 21.6% of females and 16.7% of males said a faculty member or instructor was the harasser.

“These behaviors have profound physical and emotional effects on the people who experience them and also have lasting impacts on other members of the campus community,” Guskiewicz and Menghini wrote. “And while many of you have been very active in raising awareness and staying engaged in the issue, we need the help of every person – now more than ever – to change our culture.”

The AAU also collected institution-specific data on students’ awareness of resources and bystander intervention behavior. More than 96% of respondents at Carolina were aware of at least one University or community service or resource that addresses sexual assault or other sexual misconduct and more than 70% of respondents who indicated they witnessed a situation they believe could have led to a sexual assault or noticed sexually harassing behavior said they took some action to intervene.

The survey was made available to students for 30 days during the spring 2019 semester and was open to all UNC-Chapel Hill undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Students received multiple emails with individualized links to the survey. The incidents reported in the survey are anonymous, self-reports based on the students’ interpretation of the questions and the responses are for research purposes only. Furthermore, incidents reported in the survey are not necessarily incidents that have been reported to the University for the purposes of addressing the conduct at issue.

Campus leaders call for strengthening prevention efforts

In the coming weeks and months, the University plans to focus on strengthening prevention efforts. Within the next month, the University will convene a coalition of students, faculty, and staff to develop a comprehensive strategy for prevention and awareness that will resonate with students. As part of that effort, it will hold working sessions with subject-matter experts to help improve the University’s prevention programs, consent education, and bystander intervention training.

“Your active engagement on this issue is critical, including your thoughts about how we can enhance and expand trainings and programming,” Guskiewicz and Menghini wrote.

Menghini and Guskiewicz called on all students to comply with the mandatory sexual assault prevention training. Eighty percent of survey respondents reported taking a training on the topic during the 2019 survey.

To see the full survey results, visit

What’s changed?

Since 2013, Carolina has directed more resources towards sexual assault and misconduct response efforts. These efforts include:

  • Establishing the campus-wide Sexual Assault Task Force, which developed the comprehensively revised Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment and Related Misconduct, including sexual violence, interpersonal violence, and stalking, adopted in 2014 to make the Title IX process more accessible to the campus community.
  • Hiring an additional Gender Violence Services Coordinator, which is a confidential resource that students find to be incredibly helpful for navigating care following an incident.
  • Hiring additional Report and Response Coordinators to help students through the reporting process.
  • Strengthening the mandatory online training, Sexual Assault Prevention, on sexual assault and other forms of sexual misconduct.
  • Facilitating on an ongoing basis the One Act bystander intervention skills training, HAVEN response training, and Heels United awareness campaigns.
  • Leadership met with Student Wellness last spring to review findings from the Prevention Task Force and progress toward any areas of need. The new data provides the opportunity to build upon or update any recommended actions, as needed.
  • Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz also created a Campus Safety Commission to take a broad look at all aspects of community safety. The commission includes faculty, staff, students and community members and has launched a comprehensive schedule of listening sessions.  

For information about confidential resources or reporting options related to sexual assault, harassment or related misconduct, visit