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September 02, 2015

Rutgers survey finds high levels of sexual assault, results questioned

One in five female graduates reported being victims, but only 30 percent responded

Higher Education
04072015_Rutgers_AP Mel Evans/AP

Rutgers University housing

A new survey of Rutgers University students found a high level of females being sexually assaulted, yet how truly reflective its results are is being questioned

Those results, published by the university Wednesday, were a part of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault as the school was chosen to partner with the Justice Department to administer the survey. 

It found that one in five female undergraduates reported at least one instance of unwanted sexual contact since arriving to the New Brunswick campus. 

In addition, nearly one in every four (24 percent) said they experienced some form of sexual violence before even arriving on campus. 

Yet those results have been met with some skepticism, specifically how accurately they portray the situation. 

According to NPR, only about 30 percent of students took the survey despite cash incentives and marketing efforts. 

Diane Follingstad, who studies violence against women of the University of Kentucky, told NPR that the Rutgers survey may also have used too broad of a definition of "sexual violence" -- something the Rutgers survey says explicitly in its findings. 

She also said the voluntary nature may have impacted the survey. From NPR: 

Follingstad says that's exactly the problem. Voluntary surveys, she says, tend to get a self-selected group of students motivated by personal experience, and that can really skew results.

Recently published results from a mandatory survey at the Univeristy of Kentucky found nearly 5 percent of students reported being sexually assaulted in the last year. 

The Rutgers survey also found that while many of those who reported being victims did not use campus resources for survivors, a majority of those who did found the services helpful. 

Just three days before the survey results were published, a Rutgers student was sexually assaulted while walking to her off-campus apartment, according to police