A Title IX survey of students enrolled during the 2018-19 school year indicated more instances of sexual contact without consent than in the last survey, among other safety concerns.
The Arkansas Title IX Office’s second Campus Climate Survey asked respondents a variety of questions in the following categories: demographics, academic experiences, general climate questions, perception of the leadership, policies, programs and reporting, alcohol and drug use, sexual harassment, sexual violence, stalking and relationship violence and bystander intervention.
Of survey participants, 345 indicated they had experienced unwanted sexual contact since coming to the UofA, an increase from the previous survey’s 266 respondents. Additionally, 434 people indicated they had experienced unwanted sexual contact before becoming a student, and 9 students indicated that they think they might have sexually assaulted someone.
The majority of the 2018-19 survey participants identified as female (69.4%), white (81.2%) and heterosexual (80.6%).
The survey had a lower number of participants this year, with 2,339 people partially completing the survey and 926 finishing it. The 2016-17 survey had a total of 2,830 respondents, though it did not indicate how many of those had completed the survey in its entirety.
Title IX Coordinator Tyler Farrar expected the decline in respondents, he said.
“We thought it might be difficult to get participation this year as students who completed the first survey in 2017 might be less inclined to complete the same survey two years later,” Farrar said in an email. “With this in mind, the Title IX Office worked with the Title IX Student Advisory Committee for several months prior to the release of the survey on strategies and methods to bolster participation. While the results of the survey may not be truly representative of our campus student community, the feedback can provide useful insight.”
Sex offenses at the UofA include rape, fondling, incest and statutory rape. Domestic violence and dating violence are criminal offenses but are not considered sex offenses, according to the 2017 Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy Campus Crime Statistics Report and Annual Fire Safety Report.
In regards to which type of unwanted sexual contact participants had experienced, forced touch of a sexual nature was the most common, with 54.9%. The next highest indicated an experience where they were unable to provide consent or stop what was happening, followed by experiences where the respondent was verbally or non-physically coerced with 45.4%. A portion (7.7%) of participants did not know which type of unwanted sexual contact they had experienced.
The survey asked respondents how they felt the school’s procedures helped them deal with their incident of unwanted sexual contact. None of the participants said the procedures helped a lot or completely solved the problem, with 61.9% saying they did not help at all or made the situation worse and the remaining 38.1% saying the procedures helped a little or could have helped more.
Farrar said he thinks this is in part because many students do not understand the procedures and process of making a report.
“The vast majority of students are likely unaware of the university’s process and procedures in this area because, thankfully, they’ve never had a reason to be involved personally in the process,” said Farrar.
Although Farrar’s goal is to provide a fair, objective process regardless of the outcome, Farrar said that, by nature, someone in the process will be dissatisfied with the results.
Of the students who indicated they had unwanted sexual contact, 99.6% said the incident involved alcohol. This is up since the last survey, which indicated 96.61% of incidents involved alcohol.
“Because alcohol is a significant factor in a majority of campus sexual assaults, both locally and nationally, feedback about the role it plays can be helpful in determining future educational and awareness efforts designed to prevent sexual assaults,” Farrar said.
Another question indicated most of the participants said their incident occurred with a friend or past friend at 29.4%, with the second highest percent involving acquaintances with 18.9%.
A decreased percentage of students responded that they felt safe at the UofA at 76.5%, down from 82.6% on the last survey.
UA Police Department Capt. Gary Crain said the department has several preventative measures to try to reduce the likelihood of sexual assaults, including visiting freshman classes and giving presentations on risk reduction and the importance of reporting crimes.
“In addition to that, the UAPD officers are trained instructors in a system called rape aggression defense, RAD for short,” Crain said. “These students learn risk reduction strategies and some physical exercises or practices to ward off an attacker.”
The NWA Center for Sexual Assault is an advocacy organization located in Springdale that provides free counseling and performs rape kits, amongst other services, said Supervisor Julie Kinder.
STAR Central is an office on campus located in the Pat Walker Health Center that offers victim advocacy, support, training, and resources on sexual assault and relationship violence, according to Pat Walker Health Center. Advocacy services include one-on-one meetings, support through legal proceedings and peer support groups. They also offer educational services through their peer-education program Rape Education by Peers Encouraging Conscious Thought (RESPECT).
STAR Central Director and RESPECT Advisor Mary Wyandt-Hiebert declined to comment.
The NWA Center for Sexual Assault also offers advocacy services, including to students going through the Title IX process, Kinder said.
“We’re here. This is a place that they can come and it can be safe and confidential, and we believe you,” Kinder said. “So many times this particular crime that occurs the survivor is often doubted and questioned and that doesn’t happen here. This is just a place where we have services that they can access for free and know that they are fully supported.”
Farrar said the Title IX office does plan to conduct similar surveys in the future, with the next one being tentatively scheduled for the spring of 2021.