UA student survey: One-third say school officials could do better at protecting them from sexual assault

by Jennifer Joyner ([email protected]) 283 views 

The University of Arkansas on Thursday (April 13) published the results of a student survey on the perception of sexual violence on campus, a pertinent issue for the school as it faces a legal battle with a former student over the handling of an on-campus rape case.

The confidential survey, created and administered by the education technology company Everfi, indicates most students feel safe on campus, but education and awareness about sexual assault are lacking.

The percentage of respondents who said they have experienced non-consensual sex as a student at the university (15%) was slightly higher than the national average at 13.6%, based on data collected by Everfi from 50 colleges and universities throughout the country. The vast majority of those non-consensual sexual experiences were related to alcohol consumption, according to the university.

Of the survey’s 2,800 respondents, 83% said they feel safe on the UA campus, although 59% did disagree with the idea that sexual violence is not a problem at the school. Nearly one-third found university officials’ efforts to protect students from sexual assault lacking in some way, and one-quarter said they have received no training on the definition of sexual assault and sexual violence prevention, according to the survey.

It also showed a similar portion of the population didn’t know about resources on campus for sexual assault, and one-third said they did not receive information from the university on the procedure for sexual violence investigations. In fact, less than half of those surveyed said they knew how to report a sexual assault and where to get help. About 73% of respondents said they were very likely to cease sexual activity when asked to.

The demographic for survey respondents is 82% undergraduate, 67% female and 89% white. About two-thirds were between the ages of 18 and 21, and two-thirds live off-campus. A UA press release states that while the survey group is not a true sample representing the statistics of the overall student body, it is still useful to the school, because the data “indicate some areas of concern the university can address.”

“… It’s clear from the survey results that we need to do a better job letting students know resources that are available to them and also that the university is very serious about preventing sexual assault and misconduct,” Chancellor Joe Steinmetz said in the release.

About half the students perceive the UA administration is concerned about their well-being, according to the survey. The trust for faculty members is higher. Two-thirds of respondents said teachers seem sincerely interested in their welfare.

Fewer than half of the students would intervene if they saw a friend bringing a drunk person to their bedroom, according to the survey, although the university said it has made efforts to promote bystander intervention.

The UA has upped its attention to the issue of sexual assault on campus in the last few years, and that includes mandating online sexual assault prevention training for all new students. That practice began this past fall. The university also recently launched, a site where individuals can report incidents of sexual misconduct and other campus safety concerns.

“We hope that the mandatory training, added to the many educational events held on campus throughout the year will make a real difference in the reduction of sexual assault,” Tyler Farrar, Title IX coordinator for the university, said in the release. Title IX of the Education Amendments law of 1972 protects individuals from discrimination based on gender and from sexual harassment, including sexual violence.

“The survey results allow us to measure campus perceptions and help provide the specific information we need to enhance our efforts to prevent and respond to incidents of campus sexual assault and other forms of sexual misconduct,” Farrar said.

The university’s Title IX Sexual Assault Response Team (S.A.R.T) Advisory Committee, will use the survey results to inform its efforts to improve sexual assault prevention and education on campus, according to the UA.

“Sexual assault and misconduct are taken very seriously at the University of Arkansas,” Chancellor Steinmetz said in the release. “It’s not an easy subject to discuss, which makes it altogether even more important for us to gauge student perceptions and experiences in order to better align resources, from training and counseling to reporting and intervening. Learning that some students may not clearly understand what constitutes sexual assault and misconduct is a starting point to give us shared language so we can better shape prevention programs.”

The UA and the UA system’s board of trustees are involved in a lawsuit with a former student who claims the university mishandled her case after she reported being raped in 2014 by a fellow student, a track athlete and participant in the long-jump category of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The university argues it has sovereign immunity in the case and moved for dismissal, an action rejected in the U.S. District Court in Fayetteville. The case has been moved to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit. A June 2016 list from the Department of Education shows 195 colleges under investigation for Title IX issues. UA is the only Arkansas institution listed.

OTHER SURVEY RESULTS (2016-2017 school year)
• 42 participants (1.5%) said they are certain someone has had sexual contact with them when they were unable to give consent.

• 27 participants stated that they believe but are not sure that someone had sexual contact with them when they were unable to give consent.

• 97% of those incidents involved alcohol consumption, while 18 participants said they were drugged.

• 69% said they believed the university would take their report of sexual assault seriously. That percentage closely aligns to the national average, according to the UA.

• 4% said they UA would likely not take their report seriously.

• 52% reported confidence in university administration to follow procedures necessary to address sexual assault, while 21% disagreed with that statement. Nationally, students show a higher confidence rate at 56%.

Link here to see the full press release about the survey.

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