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The Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey, administered in spring 2022, was a University-wide survey that aimed to understand students’ experiences with sexual misconduct. In order to track the progress of the University’s ongoing initiative to combat sexual violence, this survey will be administered every three years.

The continual administration of the survey fulfills one of the recommendations set forth by the Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Task Force in January 2015. For more information, read the full task force report (PDF).

About the Survey Instrument

The survey was based on an instrument created by the Administrator Researcher Campus Climate Consortium (ARC3) and was piloted in Spring 2015 at University Park, Altoona, Behrend, Fayette, and Lehigh Valley. Feedback from the pilot was used to make adjustments prior to the full administration.

The survey instrument asked questions about students’ personal experiences with victimization, perpetration, bystander behavior, knowledge of resources, and perceptions of the campus climate. For a full list of questions, view the survey instrument under each survey year.


A full list of the questions asked and definitions explained and utilized throughout the survey can be found in their entirety by reviewing the survey instrument below.

Sexual assault is defined here as any of the non-consensual acts that involve completed or attempted sexual penetration. Sexual assault can be further broken down into the tactics used by the perpetrator to commit the offenses without consent including coercion, incapacitation, and force or threats of force.

  • Coercion
    • Telling lies, threatening to end the relationship, threatening to spread rumors about the respondent, making promises the respondent knew were untrue, or continually verbally pressuring the respondent after they said they did not want to continue.

    • Showing displeasure, criticizing the respondent’s sexuality or attractiveness, getting angry but not using physical force after the respondent said they did not want to continue.

  • Incapacitation
    • Taking advantage of the respondent when they were too drunk or out of it to know what was happening.

  • Force or Threats of Force
    • Threatening to physically harm the respondent or someone close to the respondent.

    • Using physical force, for example: holding the respondent down, pinning their arms, or having a weapon.

The SMCS defines non-consensual sexual contact as experiencing any of the following events:

  • Fondling, kissing, or rubbing up against the private areas of the respondent’s body (lips, breast/chest, crotch, or butt), or removing clothes without consent.

  • Having oral sex with the respondent or making the respondent perform oral sex without consent.

  • Putting the penis, fingers, or other objects into the respondent’s vagina without consent.

  • Putting the penis, fingers, or other object into the respondent’s butt without consent.

  • Attempting (unsuccessfully) to have oral, anal, or vaginal sex without the respondent’s consent.

For the purposes of this survey, harassment is being defined as exhibiting any of the following behaviors:

  • Treated you “differently” because of your sex.

  • Displayed, used, or distributed sexist or suggestive materials.

  • Made offensive sexist remarks.

  • Put you down or was condescending to you because of your sex.

  • Told sexual stories or jokes that were offensive to you.

  • Made unwelcome attempts to draw you into a discussion of sexual matters.

  • Made offensive remarks about your appearance, body, or sexual activities.

  • Made gestures or used body language of a sexual nature which embarrassed or offended you.

  • Sent or posted unwelcome sexual comments, jokes, or pictures.

  • Spread unwelcome sexual rumors about you.

  • Used language about sexual orientation and/or gender identity in a negative way.

  • Made unwanted attempts to establish a romantic sexual relationship with you despite your efforts to discourage it.

  • Continued to ask you for dates, drinks, dinner, etc., even though you said “no”.

  • Touched you in a way that made you feel uncomfortable.

  • Made unwanted attempts to stroke, fondle, or kiss you.

  • Made you feel like you were being bribed with a reward to engage in sexual or romantic behavior.

  • Made you feel threatened with some sort of retaliation for not being sexually or romantically cooperative.

  • Treated you badly for refusing to have sex.

  • Implied better treatment if you were sexually or romantically cooperative.

This survey defines stalking and stalking behaviors as exhibiting any of the following:

  • Has anyone watched or followed you from a distance, or spied on you with a listening device, camera, or GPS (global positioning system)?

  • Has anyone approached you or showed up in places, such as your home, workplace, or school when you didn’t want them to be there?

  • Has anyone left gifts or other items for you to find that made you feel uncomfortable?

  • Has anyone sneaked into your home or car and did something to let you know they had been there?

  • Has anyone communicated with you through letters, phone calls, messages, emails, or other means that was unwanted?

Intimate Partner and Dating Violence is defined as an exhibition of any of the following behaviors: 

  • The person threatened to hurt me and I thought I might really get hurt.

  • The person pushed, grabbed, or shook me.

  • The person hit me.

  • The person beat me up.

  • The person stole or destroyed my property.

  • The person can scare me without laying a hand on me.

  • The person tried to convince my family, children, or friends that I am crazy or tried to turn them against me.

  • The person told me I was crazy, stupid, or not good enough.

  • The person blamed me for causing their violent behavior.

  • The person kept me from seeing or talking to my friends.

  • The person confined or locked me in a room or other space.

  • The person kept me from having access to a job, money, or financial resources.

The Survey Results

The results provided insight into a number of areas, including the prevalence of sexual assault and other types of sexual misconduct, how comfortable people feel reporting incidents, and the role of alcohol in sexual misconduct. Data from this survey continue to inform decisions around policy and programs for various units across Student Affairs and the University. If you feel your unit could benefit from additional analyses of the data, please contact the Student Affairs Research and Assessment office.

Survey Instrument

For a list of questions, please view/download the Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey instrument from our SharePoint folder.

Results by Campus

Links to the summary reports for all 23 campus locations can be accessed below. 

Survey Instrument

For a list of questions, please view the Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey instrument.

Results by Campus

Links to the summary reports for all 23 campus locations can be accessed below. 

Survey Instrument

For a list of questions, please view/download the Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey instrument from our SharePoint folder.

Results by Campus

How we are responding

The results of the survey will be used to guide university efforts to address challenges and needs as conversations with students, faculty, staff and the community continue. Since the survey was launched Penn State has:

  • The Gender Equity Center has hired two full-time positions to continue to expand services and support for all students.

    • A survivor advocate has been hired to support any student who has experienced sexual misconduct, relationship violence, harassment, or stalking thereby increasing the center staff to three full-time advocates available to work with students.

    • A program coordinator for Men’s Engagement and Peer Education has also been added to provide access to equitable and inclusive resources.

  • A new, evidence-based curriculum is being developed and implemented to increase education, enhance prevention efforts, and support survivors.

    • The Gender Equity Center ambassador training for faculty and staff, peer education through It’s On Us Penn State and Greeks Care, and more than 17 other training programs and workshops are available and offered regularly.

  • The Gender Equity Center has assumed the bystander intervention responsibilities, formerly under Stand for State, and added new training and education opportunities.

  • The Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity is now available for students as an additional confidential resource.

  • A student advisory committee is in the formative stages through the Coalition to Address Relationship and Sexual Violence (CARSV). The committee will work with CARSV to provide feedback about all aspects of support and procedure, including reviewing and enhancing our informal resolution process, among other items that directly affect both parties involved in Title IX matters as well as the Penn State community.


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University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-863-1809