The University of Iowa is rolling out a new plan to combat harassment and sexual violence on campus by expanding education and training for students, faculty and staff and supervisors. The effort draws on a findings from a survey of nearly 7,000 students’ experiences with sexual misconduct.
The UI's three year anti-violence plan focuses on education, prevention and intervention for instances of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, coercion, dating violence, stalking and assault.
A key finding of the campus climate survey on sexual misconduct shows only 38.6 percent of victims said they told someone about their experience. Of that group, the vast majority told an informal support, someone like a friend, roommate or family member. Eighteen-and-a-half percent shared their experience with a formal support, including campus support organizations. In-depth responses from victims who disclosed show just 3.9percent told an on-campus counselor, 0.3 percent called a crisis hotline, and 1.9 percent told local police.
Carolyn Hartley is a professor of social work at UI and helped oversee the survey. She said the low rates of disclosure aren't unique to Iowa.
“We do see that when students tell, they are most likely to tell a peer. So one of the strategies that’s in the anti-violence plan is to really look at how we can improve students’ competence in receiving a disclosure," Hartley said.
Hartley said whether to come forward is always up to the victim. But she said reporting is encouraged.
"We want to increase reporting because if a student reports we can put them in contact with supports and resources. But we also recognize too that this is somebody's choice," Hartley said.
The climate survey shows female students reported experiencing higher rates of sexual misconduct than male students. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at the UI also reported disproportionately high rates. 60.9 percent of lesbian students said they'd been harassed by faculty or staff, double the rate of heterosexual students.
Incidents of sexual misconduct also vary somewhat by race. Multiracial male students reported significantly higher rates of gender harassment and unwanted sexual attention than other demographic groups, while Asian female students said they experienced lower rates of misconduct than others.
Goals to address misconduct include expanding gender-based violence training for first year undergraduates and continuing those efforts throughout the students' time on campus. UI also wants to prepare students for the possibility of workplace harassment, and incorporate misconduct prevention training into the hiring process for the university's own employees. Expanded bystander prevention training is also on the list, as well as efforts to increase communication and build relationships between local law enforcement and at-risk groups.
UI resources for victims and survivors are available here.