mit rates of sexual assault are damn high, president reif says “i am disturbed”

MIT’s self-reported rate of sexual assault is nearly 17% for undergraduate women, comparable to the 19% overall statistic. For some reason I was under the impression that MIT didn’t have as big a sexual assault problem as other schools, but it’s clear that that impression was blatantly false.

MIT’s proposed next-steps:

And I invite MIT students, faculty and staff to send questions that they would like addressed to We will work together to answer these questions and mine the survey data for new insights. Results will be posted online.
In the meantime, we have begun taking action based on what we know so far:

  1. We are increasing staff to respond to those who experience sexual assault, and finding new ways to let students know where they can turn for help.
  2. To remove barriers that may prevent people from seeking help, we are revamping both procedures for reporting complaints and processes for addressing reported complaints.
  3. We are committed to building additional options for peer involvement in education.
  4. We have launched a Sexual Assault Education and Prevention Task Force.
  5. We are doing more to teach students about effective “bystander intervention.”
  6. We need to help students understand and handle the complex, sometimes unpredictable psychological impact of unwanted sexual behavior.
  7. We are stepping up education around the links between alcohol, drugs and sexual assault.
These initiatives represent just the beginning of what we need to do. In the coming months, I will work with the community to continue to learn from the survey results and translate those findings into action. If you have ideas now about how we can reduce the incidence of sexual misconduct on our campus and improve the support we offer when it does occur, I urge you to let me know at

Looks like a good set of initiatives, but it’s up to us to make sure that they are followed through. And the question must be asked: can the problem of sexual assault truly be solved if underlying institutional sexism and misogyny isn’t addressed? Are these seven action steps enough?

reif: “sexual assault violates our core mit values. it has no place here.”


4 thoughts on “mit rates of sexual assault are damn high, president reif says “i am disturbed”

  1. I just read the sexual assault review as well! I also found it disturbing and something has to be done. MIT’s initiatives certainly have the potential to lower that 17%, but I think a lot of sexual assault comes from what the media propagates and, as we discussed in class, the multiple definitions of sexuality that we are exposed to.


  2. “sexual assault violates our core mit values. it has no place here.”
    I would be pretty disturbed if anyone was of the opinion that sexual assault had a place anywhere…
    Maybe I’m just jaded, but I expected numbers like these. What people forget is that sexual assault isn’t always violent and obvious. It’s a lack of consent and it happens too often. I think it’s nice that MIT is taking a step forward, but it’s only a band-aid on the bigger problem. When men are taught that “no” means “maybe” or “eventually yes,” consent culture becomes a lot harder to teach.


    1. I agree with you. Ultimately, consent culture needs to start with our generation and come about with the next–if everyone from MIT grows up and raises their children to place consent and respect above all because of these initiatives, I’d call that a first step towards success.


  3. I think the results of this study are stark and frankly a little disappointing, but I am impressed with MIT for taking the initiative to really study the issue and investigate-something other colleges haven’t yet done despite all the discussion of this issue of late.


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