Sexual Assault Climate Survey results released

In April of 2015, Lawrence participated in a Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey. This was conducted by the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium. The survey consisted of four sections: general climate, assessing unwanted sexual contact and assault, context and disclosure from respondents who indicated that they were assaulted, and demographics.

The survey was administered during a tumultuous time on campus, where many students were concerned with the university’s policy and handling on instances of sexual misconduct. This survey does affirm that there is an unfortunate reality of sexual violence on our campus. Associate Dean of the Faculty, Associate Professor of Education and Title IX Coordinator Bob Williams says that Lawrence is typical in these results and similar to its peer institutions. The primary conclusion from the survey is that, in general, people are positive about Lawrence as a place and feel cared for, but would still like to see better response and support.

Williams’ primary concern is that students are reluctant to come forward with the egregious cases as well as the ones that fall into gray area. Williams said, “When you most want someone to come forward, they are the most reluctant to—because of feelings of shame, or embarrassment, simply wanting to forget about it and move on.”

According to the survey, victims most commonly confided in a close friend, romantic partner, or roommate. Victims were less likely to tell faculty and staff, and in more than one-third of assaults involving multiple assailants, victims told no one. Alcohol had been consumed by the vast majority of assailants, and by most victims. As this is a residential campus, it is also no surprise that 90 percent of assaults occurred in a residential building on campus, and nearly all assailants were Lawrence students, and most were friends or acquaintances to the victims.

Though the results of the survey have only recently been released, since many students voiced concerns in the spring, several changes have been made. These changes include revisions to the sexual misconduct policy and a significant change from the Sexual Harassment and Assault Resource Board to Sexual Harassment and Assault Resources & Education (SHARE). SHARE is a confidential resource for members of the community, and has designated faculty, staff, and student members to be these advocates. Senior Hannah Shryer describes her role on SHARE as “listening and supporting students in any way that I can. I advise them in the workings of sexual misconduct policy, and I hope to be someone reliable and trustworthy as a confidential confidant. Outside of that, I help to serve as a student voice and advocate for survivors in shaping the sexual misconduct policy.”

Shryer is also part of Student Alliance against Sexual Harassment and Assault (SAASHA), a group that deals primarily with sexual assault prevention, and provides Bystander Intervention Training to organizations and group houses on campus. SAASHA also provides “presentations regarding aspects of rape culture, consent, and bystanderism and how all these elements impact issues regarding sexual assault on our campus and how we can facilitate culture change,” Shryer describes.

As both SHARE and SAASHA are relatively new, they are continuing to grow and collaborate with groups around campus. Shryer says our aim is “to reach as many people as possible and facilitate open discourse and culture shift around these issues. In SHARE, we will hopefully continue to learn how we can best advocate for survivors and their safety, which above all requires us to listen and respond to survivors’ wishes and needs.”

As a faculty advocate, Associate Professor of Music Julie McQuinn stresses that SHARE is completely confidential and is a different step from filing a formal complaint. Both McQuinn and Williams would like to encourage anyone struggling with feelings of sexual harassment or assault to come forward and speak to a member of SHARE so that they can get help – in whatever form they would like that help to be. They will listen, talk through options, and arrange for further help and support. McQuinn stresses that “it is so crucial that every person on this campus take responsibility for becoming educated regarding sexual violence and working to make our campus safer. Awareness and understanding can absolutely make a difference in preventing sexual violence.”