In the largest survey of its kind, the Association of American Universities (AAU) found 23 percent of female undergraduate students report experiencing sexual assault or misconduct. The AAU hopes the results of its study will inform university officials of the prevalence of this problem on campus, and how they can combat these issues with future policies.

For the survey, which involved 150,000 students from 27 colleges (including the majority of Ivy League schools), the AAU covered a comprehensive list of different forms of sexual assault and misconduct that women might experience on campus. On top of this, it sought to find how prevalent each form of sexual assault was, the characteristics of these incidents, and who on campus was being affected.

The types of sexual assault and misconduct the AAU covered offered a much larger portrait of the characteristics of nonconsensual sexual situations, and the frequency of which each situation happens. Specifically, the survey defined sexual assault and misconduct as “physical force or threat of physical force; being incapacitated because of drugs, alcohol, or being unconscious, asleep, or passed out; coercive threats of non-physical harm or promised rewards; failure to obtain affirmative consent [rape or sexual battery]… and sexual harassment, stalking, and intimate partner violence.”

The survey was conducted at the 27 universities between April and May 2015. The researchers said that a total of 19 percent of students from these schools agreed to take the survey, amounting to 150,072 participants out of a potential 779,170.

Overall, the researchers discovered nuanced responses, proving that sexual assault varies depending on context, even if it still occurred frequently. For instance, female undergraduates who identified as transgender, genderqueer, non-conforming, or questioning their sexuality experienced the highest rates of sexual misconduct. Meanwhile, most incidents of nonconsensual contact occurred when a victim was incapacitated due to alcohol or drugs. Out of all the instances of sexual assault or misconduct, however, only 28 percent were reported to law enforcement or school officials, with 50 percent of rape victims saying they didn’t report their cases because they feared it wasn’t “serious enough.” Finally, of the 23 percent total who reported experiencing sexual assault or misconduct, 11 percent reported non-consensual penetration or oral sex.

“The leaders of our universities are deeply concerned about the impact of these issues on their students,” Hunter R. Rawlings III, AAU’s president, told The Washington Post . “Their participation in this and other climate surveys is an important part of their efforts to combat sexual assault.”

In light of the findings, many officials from the universities that were surveyed are now making the effort to lower the statistics. “The prevalence of such behavior runs counter to our most fundamental values,” said Yale University President Peter Salovey. “It threatens individual students, and our learning environment and our sense of community.”

But some skeptics believe we should take these results with a grain of salt. The researchers concede that because they were only able to survey 19 percent of total students, it is possible their results may be inflated; those who came forward were likely students who had experienced sexual assault or misconduct, and therefore responses would reflect that.

On top of this, by looking into so many types of sexual assault and misconduct, the survey inherently equates those of a more severe nature with less threatening situations — forced touching versus, say, violent penetration, for example. Not all instances of sexual assault and misconduct may be created equal, but this doesn’t mean the survey was wrong to explore sexual assault in all its forms. Non-consensual sex is a serious issue that must be addressed as such, but instances of forced touching or coercion can be just as damaging to the person experiencing them and should therefore not be taken lightly.

The AAU survey not only offered a larger, more comprehensive overview of sexual harassment on campus, it also found evidence supporting older studies regarding sexual harassment. One of these, a recent survey sponsored by the Obama administration, found one in five female undergraduate students experiences sexual assault. The new survey’s statistic — one in four — seems to come close to prior results while adding more of a complex, all-encompassing view of what constitutes sexual assault on campuses.

Study: Cantor D, Fisher B, Chibnall S, et al. Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. 2015.