Professor Jennifer Freyd discusses surveys on sexual assault and harassment

On April 10, a follow-up discussion concerning Professor Freyd’s work and talk “Sexual Assault and Harassment: Moving from Institutional Betrayal to Institutional Courage” was held in Academic West.

Haley Mullen, Assistant News Editor

A “Methods and Munchies Event” was held in Academic West on April 10 at 11 a.m. with University of Oregon Professor of Psychology Jennifer Freyd. Freyd also held a talk titled “Sexual Assault and Harassment: Moving from Institutional Betrayal to Institutional Courage” on April 9 at 7 p.m. in the Forum of the Elaine Langone Center.

Within the “Methods and Munchies Event,” students and faculty asked Freyd questions and discussed issues regarding psychological studies and surveys in relation to sexual assault and harassment.

“Good research involves thinking about the relationship between the sample and the population,” Freyd said.

Freyd explained that, within the psychology program at the University of Oregon, all students agree to participate in studies and are unable to choose which ones they participate in. Freyd explained how, through this process, a high amount of selection bias is eliminated, as those who participate in a study are chosen at random instead of self-selecting studies within areas of their own interest.

“As a student currently taking a course in Quantitative Methods in Political Science, I attended Dr. Freyd’s talk mainly to learn about her research process in gathering empirical data on sexual violence and assault. I found her insight on selection bias in sampling to be particularly interesting,” Katherine Kromer ’20 said.

Freyd also discussed the specific concerns faced when presenting widely distributed electronic surveys, such as those instituted by the University, concerning sexual assault and harassment. Cybersecurity, proper wording, and the provision of proper resources are all important in the distribution of surveys such as these, according to Freyd. However, she also explained how “asking people about their victimization, if done appropriately, is not a particularly risky thing to do. Asking people how they are after the survey is producing no more indication of harm than any other run-of-the-mill survey which asks people about their income or health.”

When asked about the effects of a survey on victims of sexual assault or harassment by the University’s Interpersonal Violence Prevention Coordinator Rachel Stewart, Freyd claimed she “think[s] people forget that trauma is traumatizing, and not talking about trauma is traumatizing. I think it cuts both ways, to not talk about it can be as harmful as talking about it.” This disclosure of trauma through a quantitative survey is the first discussion of trauma for many victims.

Thus, surveys regarding sexual assault and harassment often lead first-time disclosers to seek help and resources upon completing the survey.

“When I did my first campus study in 2014, what really struck me was how many people wrote us thanking us for asking these questions and doing this research, which was just so heart-warming,” Freyd said.

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