'Explicit' survey on sex assault leaves college students feeling victimized

A survey being conducted at nearly 30 major universities to gauge the true scope of sexual abuse in college is so rife with "explicit" language that it is “opening wounds” and “triggering” flashbacks in the students who take it, critics say.

Some students were so shocked by the language and descriptions — which include the words “penetration,” “oral sex,” and “sexual touching,” — they had to immediately stop answering questions and told their friends not to participate.

“I personally become uncomfortable with the questions that were being asked and stopped participating."

— Hannah Crisler, University of Michigan student

“There’s a line between collecting statistical information and treating students as a number,” said University of Michigan student Hannah Crisler, who is also the campaign director for “I Will” — a program fighting to promote awareness on the issue to end sexual violence. “I personally become uncomfortable with the questions that were being asked and stopped participating. Several of my friends were also uncomfortable or re-triggered by taking the survey as well.”

Questions on the survey ask students directly if someone touched their “breast, chest, crotch, groin or buttocks” while they were “passed out, asleep or incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol.” Language goes as far as descriptions like “when one person puts a penis, finger, or object inside someone else’s vagina or anus ...”

The language is necessary to carry out the survey's purpose, said University of Michigan spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald.

“It is only by directly collecting this information from students will we be able to prevent negative experiences and effectively respond when they do happen,” Fitzgerald told FoxNews.com.

University of Michigan sponsored the survey but did not have direct input into its development, Fitzgerald said, adding “participants may skip any question that they do not want to answer, or stop from participating at any time.”

A “FAQ” page on the Big 10 school's public affairs page responds to questions and concerns — reporting the survey takes about 20 minutes and it is “for everyone, regardless of gender identity or experiences.”

The questionnaire is billed as one of “the largest ever on sexual assault” with “participating universities [totaling] over 800,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students,” according to the Association of American Universities, which is administering the questionnaire.

After students take the survey, an e-mail is sent to them from Westat — a private research organization assisting in analyzing the data — which states “As a small token of our appreciation, by going to the website at the link below, you will be entered into a sweepstakes to win $500.”

“Our primary purpose in conducting this survey is to help our institutions gain a better understanding of this complex problem on their own campuses as well as nationally," said AAU President Hunter Rawlings. "Our first priority, and theirs, is to ensure that students not only are safe but feel safe.”

Not all students took issue with the survey.

“It’s nice to see the university hold itself accountable to see if their awareness efforts are effective,” said University of Michigan freshman Grant Strobl, who also believes there are other ways our society can better fix the issue of sexual assault.

“I’ve taken online seminars and in Greek Life, I’ve taken additional online seminars. For me, these were effective in making sure that I’m aware of situations and can intervene if something doesn’t look right,” Strobl told Foxnews.com.

There are nearly 300,000 victims of sexual assault each year, and 80 percent of them are under the age of 30 — almost half are under the age of 18, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.