College releases sexual misconduct climate analysis

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The College of William and Mary released data from its second campus-wide survey on sexual misconduct. COURTESY PHOTO / WM.EDU

A year ago, the College of William and Mary sent out a survey asking for feedback on the campus climate surrounding sexual misconduct. Now, the results are in, as 2,672 respondents — just over 30 percent of the student body — have shared their experiences. The university’s female, LGBTQ and Fraternity and Sorority Life populations are still much more likely to have experienced sexual misconduct than the rest of campus.

What does the data say?

Of the students who took the survey, 69.4 percent of respondents were victims of at least one act of sexual misconduct. Additionally, 43 percent of all respondents were members of fraternity or sorority organizations. These respondents were likely to experience sexual misconduct at increased rates. 31 percent reported experiencing at least one incident of physical sexual violence, compared to 12 percent of non-affiliated students who reported experiencing physical sexual violence.

Female students, and those who identify as LGBTQ, also reported experiencing sexual misconduct at higher rates.

“One student experiencing sexual misconduct in any form is too many,” College spokesperson Erin Zagursky said in a press release. “The only acceptable rate is zero.”

“One student experiencing sexual misconduct in any form is too many,” College spokesperson Erin Zagursky said in a press release. “The only acceptable rate is zero.”

These results are not new. In fall 2015, the College released data from its 2014 campus-wide Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey. At this time, women affiliated with social sororities were found to be 31 percent more likely to be sexually assaulted and 154 percent more likely to be raped than non-affiliated women. Fraternity men were 86 percent more likely to experience sexual misconduct than non-affiliated men.

These results prompted discussions among Fraternity and Sorority Life members and the creation of the Sexual Assault Steering Committee for fraternities and sororities.

Title IX Coordinator Kiersten Boyce said that although she has seen that Fraternity and Sorority Life leaders and members do work to address this, she believes there is still more to be done.

“It’s not like an ‘Oh, that’s done’ situation,” Boyce said. “I have seen some meaningful changes, but certainly work remains to be done. It’s definitely a higher risk group.”

Dean of Students Marjorie Thomas said that she has seen students in Fraternity and Sorority Life stand up for their peers since the release of the last survey’s results.

“When you have members of social fraternities and sororities sanding up and saying ‘We won’t engage with a group because of this behavior,’ that’s a game changer,” Thomas said. “That doesn’t mean everything is perfect, but it means that there is an effort out there. To even feel that a little bit is impactful.”

The survey

In 2014, the College released a similar survey, although administrators had less control over the content of the survey. This survey compared groups based on socio-economic status, race/ethnicity, athletic team membership, gender and degree level. It did not allow for comparison of LGBTQ communities.

This year, the College worked to design their own survey where staff members could pick specific definitions for certain terms like “sexual misconduct” and “sexual assault” to get a better gauge for who experiences what. However, because the surveys were not identical in methodology, they cannot be directly compared.

One thing that is new about this survey is that it asked questions about different types of sexual misconduct like stalking, harassment and intimate partner violence.

“A harm is harm,” Thomas said. “If a student is stalked, that still impacts their ability to live their life, their ability to pursue their study. It can be stressful if someone has been consistently harassing them in a particular environment. That still has the opportunity to interfere with their quality of life.”

Intimate partner violence, also known as domestic violence or relationship violence, was one of these new categories added to the survey.

“We added a couple of questions, for example, around interpersonal and domestic violence because that’s something Liz Cascone in the Haven has seen quite a bit during her time here,” Director of Student Affairs Planning and Assessment Anna Mroch said in a press statement.

According to Thomas and Boyce, they have engaged with students experiencing this type of violence and also peers of students who experience this violence and want to help their friends.

“Quite a heartening thing for me is that a number of the reports we have about unhealthy relationships are from friends that are observing it and that know it’s not right,” Boyce said.

“Quite a heartening thing for me is that a number of the reports we have about unhealthy relationships are from friends that are observing it and that know it’s not right,” Boyce said.

Moving forward

Thomas and Boyce said that they both have taken these survey results as a way to think critically about what to do next. One thing that they both are working on is supporting Assistant Director of Health Promotion T Davis in developing a bystander intervention program.

“With any assessment, after you get the initial picture of what’s going on and the basic understanding, you can move into more focused areas of improvement,” Mroch said in a press statement. “So we’ve done the general improvement of making sure students know where they can report, having signs in all of the bathroom stalls, making sure the website has a lot of information, to now look at being more focused on are there pockets of students from whatever demographic that we’re not reaching? Are there pieces related to our response that we can improve? Are there pieces related to our communication? That allows us to continue to refine the work that we’re doing to best serve students, both in the prevention aspects of it but also the response pieces for victims.”

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