As we approach the beginning of the new school year, I want to remind everyone that student safety, particularly in the context of sexual misconduct, remains a top priority that we all must help achieve.  As you may recall, the University of Colorado Boulder conducted a Sexual Misconduct Survey last fall to understand the frequency and types of sexual misconduct experienced by our students. More than 13,000 students participated, representing a response rate of 41 percent.

In February 2016, we released the Phase I analysis of the survey, which provided data on rates of sexual misconduct in the following areas: sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, intimate partner abuse and stalking. The Phase I data also provided information on knowledge of campus resources for finding confidential support and for officially reporting and prevalence rates for encountering and intervening in situations to reduce the likelihood of sexual misconduct. You can view the Phase I results here.

We released the data findings in two phases in order to share the results as soon as they became available. This was a lengthy survey with over 100,000 pieces of data to correlate and analyze and it has taken several months to complete the secondary analyses. These new findings allow us to more deeply understand the factors that surround sexual misconduct and will help us to further shape and refine our prevention and response efforts. Today’s Phase II data release includes analyses that focus on two areas:  

  1. Sexual assault and perpetrator characteristics; and
  2. Reports of sexual misconduct: who reports, who do victims tell about an incident and what are the barriers to reporting.

Below are the key findings, which will shape our ongoing and new initiatives for education and prevention training for the upcoming school year.

  • The most commonly used tactics to perpetuate a sexual assault were: ignoring the victim’s efforts to get the perpetrator to stop and using the victim’s incapacitation.
  • Overall, the majority of sexual assaults occurred in an off-campus residence or location in Boulder; for undergraduates, 13 percent of sexual assaults occurred in a residence hall.
  • Over the calendar year, 71 percent of sexual assaults happen in the fall semester, 20 percent in the spring semester, 7 percent during summer, and 2 percent over winter break.
  • Sexual assaults are more likely to occur during a student’s first year, with a decline in rate from students’ first to fourth year (and beyond). Of the sexual assaults reported in the survey, 67 percent happened to students who were in their first year, 20 percent in their second year, 9 percent in their third year, and 4 percent to students who were in their fourth year or beyond.
  • Sexual assaults for first-year students in the fall 2015 semester were: undergraduate women (13 percent), undergraduate men (3 percent), graduate women (6 percent), and graduate men (1.5 percent).
  •  61% of survey respondents who had been sexually assaulted told someone about the incident. Among this group:
    • 93 percent reporting confiding in a friend or roommate
    • 10 percent talked with the Office of Victim Assistance
    • 8 percent made an official report to the university or police
  • The primary reason that survey respondents did not officially report an incident of sexual misconduct was that they “did not think it was serious enough to report.”

As these findings indicate, it is critical that we address these issues immediately with our incoming student populations. To that end, we require all incoming students to complete mandatory online training that describes prohibited sexual misconduct and affirmative consent – whether on or off campus – and access to support services and reporting options. We also require incoming students to attend mandatory, in-person training for developing effective bystander intervention skills. This training covers skills for recognizing problematic behaviors and precursors to sexual assault, as well as strategies for looking out for friends and intervening in high-risk situations.

Our results have also shown us areas where we need to do more. Thus we will be enhancing our efforts through additional trainings and initiatives, which include new Residence Life messaging and marketing campaigns on bystander intervention skills and correcting misperceptions about the seriousness of sexual assault (“Don’t Ignore It” and “Just Because” initiatives).

As Chancellor, I remain dedicated to fully addressing sexual misconduct in our community. As you may recall, we have created one of the most robust offices in the country to respond to and educate about this issue, including increasing Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance staff in the areas of investigations, education and prevention, and protective measures as led by former U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney Valerie Simons. We will continue to be transparent and apprise you of our ongoing efforts in this critical area.

Everyone who comes in contact with our student community has a role to play in addressing this issue. While we have robust resources dedicated to preventing and responding to sexual misconduct, we need everyone on our campus and in our community to be educated and engaged. Learning effective bystander intervention strategies and how to appropriately respond to someone who discloses a traumatic event are two important skills that everyone can develop. 

To see the Phase II survey summary and learn more about next steps, go to Please feel free to contact me at if you have questions.


Philip P. DiStefano
Chancellor, University of Colorado Boulder

Resources: If you are the victim of sexual misconduct, you have many options for reporting and assistance. For more information, visit the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance website at: For free and confidential support please contact CU Boulder’s Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) at 303-492-8855.