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Survey results reveal student experiences around assault at Beloit

Ryan Jacquemet/The Round Table

Ryan Jacquemet/The Round Table

Last week The Round Table published that, in a report released this summer by The Washington Post, Beloit was found to have the ninth-highest rate of sexual assaults in the United States.

Last Spring administrators sent out the HEDS Sexual Assault and Campus Climate Survey and on Monday, Sept. 12 the results were presented in Richardson Auditorium by Dean of Students Christina Klawitter and Title IX Coordinator and Associate Dean Cecil Youngblood. The forum summarized over 60 pages of survey results that are now available at Beloit’s website under the Office of Institutional Research Assessment & Planning (IRAP) section.

The summary was conducted in hopes of gathering needed information about unreported experiences and about students’ perceptions of Beloit’s climate surrounding the subject of sexual assault. The survey asked questions regarding students’ perceptions of the campus climate and their experiences with unwanted sexual behaviors. It was sent to the entire student body including exchange students, Porter scholars, and those studying abroad. In total, 578 students responded (a 46 percent response rate), with 59 percent of respondents identifying as female, 37 percent identifying as male, and 4 percent identifying as other.

Klawitter and Youngblood shared what their own perceptions were coming into the survey. According to Youngblood, they thought that Beloit students were likely experiencing assault more often than is reported based on the national statistic but also believed that the 1 in 4 statistic overstates the experience of Beloit students. The survey revealed that this was true. 11 percent of respondents (62 students) said they had been assaulted since coming to Beloit College. 15 percent of females said they had been assaulted and 5 percent of males reported being assaulted according to the survey.

The survey asked more specific questions regarding students’ experiences with unwanted sexual behavior. When asked if they had received unwanted brief physical contact “such as someone briefly groping [them], rubbing sexually against [them]…or engaging in any other brief inappropriate or unwelcome touching of [their] body”, 114 students (20 percent of the students who responded) reported experiences unwanted brief physical contact “sometimes”, “often” or “very often.” Broken down further, 55 percent of students were female and 10 percent were male.

When it came to unwanted verbal behavior, defined as “someone making sexual comments about your body; making unwelcome sexual advances, propositions, or suggestions to you; or telling you sexually offensive jokes or kidding about your sex or gender-specific traits”, 158 students (27 percent) reported experiencing it at least “sometimes” since their time at Beloit.

When it came to perceptions of climate at Beloit, Klawitter disclosed that the school hoped to look at various perspectives. One of those was if “students think they’re at risk of assault” at Beloit. The survey asked students whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement “I do not believe that I or one of my friends is at risk of being assaulted on campus, at a college event or program, or at a party off campus.” According to responses, nearly 50 percent of students disagreed or strongly disagreed, while 15 percent strongly agreed.

Similarly, students do not perceive that Beloit’s number of sexual assaults on campus, at a college event or program, or at a party off campus is low. In fact, only around 12 percent of students strongly agreed that assaults on campus is low, while nearly 30 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

During the presentation Youngblood also revealed that they were “relatively surprised” with students’ confidence in the administration. “We thought students have a relatively low level of confidence in the campus reporting and investigation process,” Youngblood said, but the survey pointed to a more positive mentality among students. Over 70 percent of students who responded strongly agree or agree with the statement that “campus officials would take the report seriously” and nearly 60 percent agreed or strongly agreed that “campus officials would conduct a careful investigation in order to determine what happened.”

However, the levels of peer support that students reported were the most surprising it seemed.  Although they believed that students would report high levels of peer support, only 17 percent of students strongly agreed that students “would intervene if they witnessed a sexual assault” and 31 percent neither agreed nor disagreed. The problem with so many students falling in this middle area, Klawitter points out is that “it is not support…it’s almost as good as disagree.”

“We’ve got some work to do,” Klawitter continued. She hopes to put the work team together and to get going as soon as possible to set a two year agenda for the next two years based on the survey results. Administration is also set to work together with the sociology department’s capstone to shape prevention and climate change agenda further. Yet, “peer culture is not as strong as I thought it would be,” and Klawitter does agree that finding a solution to this issue is “puzzling”.

As for how to get more students to care and get involved in addressing these results, Klawitter isn’t quite sure. She pointed out that “not enough students” were present at Monday’s forum but hopes that through continuing efforts and a push for more awareness will lead to progress.

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