Sex­ual vi­o­lence sur­vey re­sults re­vealed

Sur­vey a com­bined ef­fort be­tween St. F.X. and Antigonish Women’s Re­source Cen­tre

The Casket - - Local - SAM MACDON­ALD sam­mac­don­[email protected]­cas­ket.ca

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."

Sam Macdon­ald

Guests and or­ga­niz­ers en­gage in a dis­cus­sion of how to deal with sex­ual vi­o­lence on cam­pus, Nov. 21.

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