University panel presents findings in study of sexual assault on campus

By Christina Oddo

Contributing Writer

The University community is constantly searching for ways to improve sexual assault awareness, supply support for survivors and enhance educational services, said guest speakers at the 2010 Sexual Assault Discussion, held Tuesday, Aug. 31 in the Elaine Langone Center Forum.

Bill Flack, associate professor of psychology, joined a group of University faculty and staff to present the 2009 survey results for sexual assault at the University.

The October 2009 and early November 2009 survey consisted of a web-based lottery system. The total sample included 342 women (ranging from sophomores to seniors). First-year students were excluded from the survey. There was a 38 percent response rate. The Sexual Experiences Survey (nation-wide for sexual assault researchers), Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test and Hooking Up Questionnaire were measures included in the survey.

The results of the survey show that sexual assault victimization (experienced one or more times while at the University, which does not include breaks or summer vacations) ranges over a variety of different sexual assault forms. One hundred and seventy people claimed that they were victims of “Touching.” One hundred and two were victims of “Attempted Rape.” Sixty survey participants said they were victims of “Completed Rape.”

Flack made a continuous effort throughout the presentation to make the connection between alcohol, and the more recently used term, “hooking up,” crystal clear.

“Hooking up” is a risk factor of sexual assault, and 80.4 percent of the sample members had hooked up one or more times while at the University. Correlations between alcohol consumption and different types of hooking up were investigated in the study, and highlighted throughout the presentation. Hooking up with a stranger, “Type 1,” is related to higher levels of alcohol consumption. People are less likely to hook up with their “default partner,” or “friends with benefits,” if they have been drinking.
Victims report that virtually all of their perpetrators are male University students. In the 2001-2002 survey, 10 percent of men and two percent of women admitted to being perpetrators. In the 2005-2006 survey, two percent of men and four percent of women said they had “touched” someone, when that person they perpetrated clearly did not want to be touched. Seven percent of men and one percent of women attempted unwanted sex, and five percent of men admitted to having completed unwanted sex. In both the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 surveys, only males admitted to such offenses.

Risk factors for sexual assault victimization at the University include: being female, high alcohol consumption, hooking up, Greek membership and time of year. Sorority members are significantly more likely to report any victimization. The “red zone” means the first semester of the first year of college.

Tracy Shaynak, director of the University’s Women’s Resource Center spoke about the National College Health Assessment, administered electronically by the American College Health Association at the University in the spring of 2009. The entire undergraduate population was surveyed, and 545 surveys were completed.  Shaynak discussed drinking habits, stating that many students believe that other students drink far more than they actually do. She connected this misconception to the hook up culture, emphasizing the nature of assumption, and the pressure a student might feel in a social context, under the overarching umbrella of the prevalent hook up culture.

According to Shaynak, more meaningful work needs to be done on campus. She said the University needs to give more support to survivors, empower its students to make a change, and work hard to tie resources on and off campus.

University Staff Psychologist Dr. Mary Elizabeth Shaw spoke about continuing a group initiated early last year, a survivors of sexual assault support group.  Shaw emphasized the importance of “working for prevention efforts, promoting consent and healthy relationships, and collaborating with different groups on campus to truly make a difference.”

The lecture also consisted of information about the sexual assault advocate program, a program that provides critical information in order to ease difficult decision making for victims including counseling, academic and legal advice.

Concluding the night, all lecture participants, student and faculty agreed on that many students go into college full of expectations, most of these expectations derived from different modes of the media, from films to music. Many agreed that these expectations should be disregarded as they are often fictitiously based.

University representatives stressed the importance of communication and said that the resources and contacts on campus are abundant, and the psychologists, peer educators, advocates, and other workers, are dedicated to ensuring proper prevention, education, safety, guidance and care.

(Visited 48 times, 1 visits today)