Aiming Further and Digging Deeper: Responding to UM-Flint’s Survey on Sexual and Gender Violence
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During the Spring Semester of 2016 students at UM Flint were asked to participate in a Campus Survey on Sexual and Relationship Violence. The survey results assisted us in identifying cultural and behavioral shifts on campus and further refining our analysis of sexual assault issues faced by our students. Based on these results, we know that students need support in three areas to make up a comprehensive education, prevention and response strategy that is embedded in the specific needs of our campus population. First, must increase education on our sexual misconduct policy, options for reporting, and resources for students as part of our preventative bystander intervention training. We found that even though our students are at the national average in terms of knowing about confidential resources on campus and knowing where to go for help if sexually assaulted, we must increase our support and resources for making sure a higher proportion of all students, in addition to first-year students, receive prevention information and training. We would also like to note that a number of our students reported having experienced sexual assault before college. This points to the fact that we must build the capacity of our peer education program to reach out to high school populations and we must also provide opportunities for healing from past sexual assaults for students who find the support to talk about these issues while on our campus.
Second, we want to increase the number of opportunities for students to be able to engage in deeper conversations and dialogues about sexual and gender violence. We found that while students had faith that our institution would respond to sexual assault they also felt that amongst peers there was a feeling that sexual assault was not serious enough to report. Equally concerning that students reported that perpetrators of violence were often those who already knew them and that they would be likely to be taken advantage of while incapacitated. We are further concerned that our students report being exposed to sexist remarks and discourse as well as their indication that they feel they could be retaliated against by friends and their peer group for reporting sexual assault. This points in our analysis that we must go beyond training about the policy and prevention to incorporate also a strategy for deeper social and cultural shifts on campus and a transformation of the foundational belief systems that have created and sustain this problem.
Third, we want to productively and increasingly engage our campus population through technology and social media. Our campus has a majority non-traditional and commuter students and secondly this generation of students who live both on and off campus are increasingly engaged by online communications and in fact feel a sense of safety and freedom in using online platforms. If universities do not creatively and innovatively engage students through technology in our anti-violence work we run the risk of not being able to live up to our goal of ending campus sexual assault. Our program evaluation process and the popularity of our PSA video and other social media outlets indicate that we need to increase our capacity to use these forums in addressing both our first goal of increasing training and education and our second goal of deepening, enriching and providing more students opportunities to engage in meaningful discourse, including carefully moderated online discourse, that will shift our campus culture.