Sexual violence survey results revealed
Survey a combined effort between St. F.X. and Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre
Students, guests, faculty and staff at St. F.X. had a conversation about a serious issue, and how to deal with it, on Wednesday evening, Nov. 21.
Breanna O’handley, gender and sexual diversity student advisor at St. F.X., and Annie Chau, co-ordinator with Advancing Women’s Equality [AWE], spoke to about 60 people in Desmond Hall on the St. F.X. campus about the prevalence of sexual violence, and how it, and attitudes toward it, manifest on campus at St. F.X.
O’handley and Chau shared data collected from the St. F.X. Sexual Violence Climate Survey Report, which examined experiences with sexual violence on a local level. The survey was a partnership between St. F.X. and AWE.
The survey collected information from 611 St. F.X. students, between March and April of 2018.
O’handley went over results of the survey, saying 80 per cent of students who responded to the online survey, believe there is a sexual violence problem at St.
F.X. and 70 per cent of respondents believe that sexual violence is a risk for themselves or their peers.
Forty-eight per cent of respondents indicated they experienced sexual violence at St. F.X. since becoming a student and 18 per cent did not tell anyone. Of that number, O’handley said only 45 per cent were aware of the university’s reporting procedures – something that indicates "more education is needed on where to go and what the process is to report sexual violence."
"While students generally seem happy at St. F.X., they don’t think that staff and admin are concerned enough with their welfare, and are lacking confidence that universities can keep students safe and handle crises well," O’handley said, referring to statistics gleaned from the survey that showed 81 per cent of respondents reported being happy at St. F.X., but only 57 per believed staff and administrators respect what students think and 54 per cent of respondents saying staff and administrators are concerned about their welfare.
O’handley said 44 per cent of respondents think university officials do enough to protect the safety of students, and 36 per cent of respondents think if a crisis happened on campus, St. F.X. would handle it well.
Results from the survey also indicated that 75 per cent thought the St. F.X. community would support the person reporting a sexual assault; 64 per cent thought St. F.X. would take the report seriously; 63 per cent think St F.X. would take steps to protect the safety of a person making the report – but only 53 per cent think the university would take corrective action against the offender.
The survey indicated that a minority of respondents understand what happens when a sexual assault is reported at St FX. and have confidence that the university administers the proper process to address complaints of sexual assault, O’handley noted.
Although the surveys are not truly random or completely representative of the entirety of the student body, O’handley said the survey was a useful tool in illuminating how unhealthy beliefs and myths about sexual violence permeate today’s cultural climate on campus.
Rather than just be a cause for alarm, O’handley said the survey shows there is a willingness to help and learn, referring to 62 per cent of students believing there is much they can do about sexual violence, and 50 per cent stating they can play a role in stopping sexual violence on campus.
O’handley said respondents reported more frequently using responsive "stopping behaviours," to unwanted sexual advances, rather than people using "asking behaviours" to gain consent, indicating the need to encourage a culture in which sexual consent is prioritized and sought more actively.
"People might not be versed in asking behaviours because they’re not educated to do that," O’handley said, noting that may indicate a need to educate people more clearly on consent.
O’handley said other issues include educating people about culturally prevalent myths about rape and sexual assault, and training people to intervene when they are bystanders in a situation where sexual violence is taking place.
"Sometimes the situation is one in which people could have been a bystander, or heavy drinking was involved. Intervening students were more likely to do so, by asking the person if they needed help, separating people or creating a distraction," she said.
Meanwhile, O’handley noted, people who didn’t intervene in a potential scenario of sexual violence didn’t because they didn’t know how to, felt it was not their business, or were uncomfortable.
"The data points to the importance of continuing training for bystander intervention, to make common strategies more accessible."
After O’handley presented the survey results, guests became active participants in the conversation themselves, splitting into groups to discuss how to best address sexual violence, focusing on what actions need to happen and who needs to be involved
O’handley said she was impressed with the turnout of the event, given that late November is a busy time in the academic year.
"It was better than we were expecting, and it was a good split of people. A good chunk of students, staff, faculty and professors – as well as people from higher admin."
Guests and organizers engage in a discussion of how to deal with sexual violence on campus, Nov. 21.