What Happens Here survey suggests decline in sexual violence

College campuses across the country face sexual assault and misconduct cases, and many, including Vassar, have taken steps to address this issue. But how do we know if these efforts have had any effect on student well-being? Luckily, there are ways to quantitatively summarize this data. 

The What Happens Here survey measures everything from the efficacy of education on the topic of consent and sexual violence to the incidence of sexual assaults on campus. The survey is conducted every two years and attempts to survey every Vassar student via email. It is conducted anonymously. Only 33 percent of the student body participated in the most recent survey, so the results cannot be treated as fully inclusive or conclusive. However, the survey describes the sample of respondents as representative of the full college population in terms of gender, year of study and race/ethnicity.

The 2019 results have just been released, and a full report can be found at vassar.edu/whathappenshere. If you don’t have the time to read the full report, the rest of this article will digest the survey’s primary findings. 

Improvement since 2017: 

With few exceptions, the survey shows improvements in combating sexual violence since 2017. Compared to two years prior, Vassar students tend to have more trust in the institution to handle sexual assault incidents, are better educated about the topic and experience less sexual violence. Below are some of the statistics that show these improvements. 

Differences between demographic groups:

The report ran logistic regression analysis to determine if there were differences between demographic groups when it came to sexual assault. They found that those who identified as cis women, transgender, queer or a gender identity other than male were significantly more likely to report experiencing any non-consensual sexual experience than cis men. They found no significant differences based on race, sexual orientation or citizenship status. The same trends exist for those who reported experiencing non-consensual sexual penetration. 


Although the survey shows across-the-board improvement, there is still work to be done. Seventeen percent of respondents (roughly 150 people) reported a non-consensual sexual experience while enrolled at Vassar. While much lower than 2017, there’s still a long way to go toward creating a safer community. 

Another area where Vassar needs improvement is education about counseling services. Only 56 percent of respondents in 2019 knew how to seek confidential counseling at Vassar. In 2017, that number was 70 percent. 

Overall, the College has achieved large gains in fighting sexual assault and misconduct. These results are promising, but the fight against sexual violence is ongoing. Hopefully, Vassar will make similar strides over the next two years.

Percent of 
students who:

2017 Results

2019 Results
Percent Change

Agreed that Vassar would take a sexual assault report seriously65%78%+13%
Knew to whom to report a sexual assault 57% 75%+18%
Reported that they experienced any non-consensual sexual experience*28%17%-11%
Reported that they experienced non-consensual sexual penetration* 8% 6%-2%
Reported at least once experiencing physical abuse from a partner 5% 2% -3%

*In the past three years while enrolled at Vassar

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