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Female undergraduates report less sexual misconduct and relationship violence in 2016 survey

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Graphic by Robert Scarpinito | Managing Editor for Design

Graphic by Robert Scarpinito | Managing Editor for Design

The results of Ohio State’s second campus climate survey on “sexual misconduct and relationship violence” have been released, and the findings show a decrease in female victims and a slight rise in male victims.

Administered by OSU together with the Buckeyes ACT initiative, the survey results were made public on Sept. 22 and came from undergraduate, graduate and professional students across all of OSU’s campuses. 13,152 students, or 21.1 percent of OSU students, responded to the survey.

“So what sexual assault means in this survey is both non consensual sexual touching, and then also what we would consider rape and nonconsensual sexual intercourse,” said Kellie Brennan, OSU’s Title IX and Clery Act coordinator.

The findings indicated that 20.6 percent of the female undergraduate students who responded said they have been victims of nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force or while they were incapacitated, which is a slight improvement from last year’s survey result of 24 percent.

For male undergraduate student respondents, 5.5 percent said that they have been victims of sexual violence since they have been students at OSU, which is an increase from last year’s 5.3 percent.

“(The past two survey results) are only two points in time, and it would be premature to draw sweeping conclusions about any type of trend,” OSU spokesman Chris Davey said. “Nonetheless, we are encouraged and cautiously optimistic to see that it appears, preliminarily, that there is increasing awareness in our community about this very important problem.”

Other results from the survey included that 6.4 percent of the student respondents think that it is likely they would fall victim to sexual misconduct or sexual assault while on campus.

The survey results also showed that 62 percent of respondents reported that it would be likely that their safety would be protected by campus officials if they were to report an incident of sexual assault or sexual misconduct, and that 67 percent of them believed that their report would be taken seriously by campus officials.

That leaves about about one-third of respondents who said they felt they wouldn’t be protected or that their report wouldn’t be taken seriously by the university.

“It is possible that this lack of confidence originates from a combination of the stigma surrounding sexual assault and a lack of awareness of resources that Ohio State can provide survivors,” said Gerard Basalla, Undergraduate Student Government president and fourth-year in political science and strategic communication. “We must push for progress relating to outreach to students to make sure they are aware of the resources available to them.”

Davey said that while the survey findings are in line with national figures at other universities in the nation, OSU is taking the results very seriously and is looking to continue to bring the numbers down and educate students, faculty and staff about available resources.

“There are some positive early signs in this survey data,” Davey said. “However, it also still shows that what’s happening at Ohio State aligns with what we are seeing nationally, which is that an unacceptably large number of people in our community are experiencing sexual violence, relationship violence, sexual misconduct … This is a long-term problem that we are going to have to commit resources to and work together on, as a community, for years.”

The main way Ohio State plans to combat sexual violence and provide resources for students who have experienced acts of sexual violence is through the aforementioned Buckeyes ACT (action, counseling and training) initiative, Brennan said.

Brennan said that the acronym encompasses everything that is done at OSU to respond to an act of sexual violence through prevention efforts, support services and raising awareness and educating the OSU community.

“We are really looking at (this survey) as an opportunity to learn what our university is experiencing, what’s going on in our community and what (the students) think that the university is doing,” Brennan said. “We are turning that into the Buckeyes ACT initiative to take what we learn and turn it into more impactful messaging, awareness campaigns and things that can help broaden the message.”

The program was launched a year ago by University President Michael Drake.

“Buckeyes ACT is an important standard Ohio State is setting on the national stage for enhancing sexual violence prevention efforts as well as encouraging students to report incidents of assault,” Basalla said.

Nicole Haddad, a third-year student in world politics and finance, said that she is happy with what OSU has done to combat sexual violence thus far, but also that there is more that can be done.

“The aim to do better and combat this problem has definitely been increasing in the past, and I really appreciate that OSU is coming up with these different ways to combat the problem,” Haddad said. “But I think that there is always more room for improvement.”

Another student, Lucas Minnich, a third-year in new media and communication technology, suggested OSU should send out emails more often that includes information for services on campus.

“I think that in addition to the survey, Ohio State should make sure to send out emails at least once a week to give information, including where to reach out for help when you have been attacked and what counseling services are available,” Minnich said.

In addition to these survey results, OSU recently released the Clery Act report for the 2015 calendar year, which indicates the number of rape and fondling reports has increased from the year before.

The Clery report indicated that there were 30 total rapes reported in the area, with 25 reported to have occurred on the Columbus campus and five reported to have occurred in “non-campus” locations, which include any university managed buildings across the country, as well as fraternity and sorority housing. In addition, the report indicated that the incidences of fondling increased from 12 to 14 in 2015.

Brennan said that the numbers from the Clery report were based on actual reports that are made to either law enforcement or to campus security authorities. The reports are tied to crimes that happen on university property to any person, not just OSU students or employees.

The respondents to the campus climate survey reported the sexual violence that they experienced during their time as an OSU student. However, unlike the Clery report, this survey was not tied to location, as the respondents reported acts of sexual violence that they experienced anywhere in the world while they were enrolled at OSU, Brennan said.

“While we want fewer people to be experiencing sexual violence, we actually want the Clery numbers to increase because we would like more people to feel comfortable coming forward to the university because we want to get them help,” Brennan said.

The data in the survey was weighted, meaning that the students’ responses are proportional to Ohio State’s percentage of population so that it is representative of the university as a whole, Davey said.

Other efforts being put forth to combat sexual violence at OSU include the requirement that all incoming first-year students to take mandatory sexual misconduct and relationship violence training as a part of the First-Year Success Series, as well as an online training course that will help them to identify issues and support and prevention services, according to a university news release.

OSU used the survey software Qualtrics to conduct the study, and it was adapted to be an OSU-specific study from the 2015 study done by the American Association of Universities. The 2015 survey was sent out to students at Ohio State and 26 other universities in the country, Davey said.

OSU will conduct this study again in 2017.

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