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Recap of Sexual Assault and Campus Climate survey results

September 15, 2016
By Susan Kasten
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Beloit College faculty, students, and staff met in Richardson Auditorium on campus last Monday to learn more about the results of a Sexual Assault and Campus Climate survey conducted among students last spring. The conversation included a discussion about plans for improving the college’s response, support, and prevention efforts going forward.

Ellie Anderbyrne, director of strategic research and assessment, Christina Klawitter, dean of students, and Cecil Youngblood, Title IX coordinator and associate dean, presented the survey results and led the discussion. Anderbyrne explained that the college chose a survey developed by the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium, which is used primarily by other small residential colleges and suitable for comparisons between Beloit and other participating schools.

During the spring semester, 578 Beloit College students (46 percent of the student body) responded to the survey, which had two categories of questions. One asked about first-hand experiences with unwanted sexual behaviors, including sexual assault, while the other measured perceptions about the campus climate, including perceived safety and confidence in the sexual assault reporting system.

Among the findings was that nearly 11 percent of students reported they had been sexually assaulted. This compares with 20 to 25 percent of college students nationally, and with 9 percent among other small colleges that participated in the study.  Of students who experienced sexual assault, 61 percent said the perpetrator was drinking alcohol at the time, and 56 percent said that they themselves were drinking alcohol. The survey also revealed that women were experiencing unwanted sexual behaviors in greater numbers than men, but that men were also experiencing them. Unwanted sexual behaviors include unwanted physical contact, verbal, and nonverbal behaviors.

Students were also asked about their perceptions, including whether they felt at risk of sexual assault at Beloit, and whether they believed campus officials would take reports of sexual assault seriously. More than 74 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that a report of sexual assault would be taken seriously at Beloit (compared with 79 percent at all schools), while nearly 60 percent said they agreed or strongly agreed that campus officials would conduct a careful investigation (compared with nearly 67 percent at all schools). Fifty-seven percent agreed or strongly agreed that Beloit students would intervene if they witnessed a sexual assault (compared with 60 percent at other participating schools).

Conducting the survey was part of Beloit’s recent efforts to reduce the prevalence of sexual assault and unwanted sexual behaviors. Other efforts include stepping up bystander training, adapting policies, procedures, and investigator training, clarifying reporting processes, and training faculty and staff about their roles as mandatory reporters.

Klawitter noted that there is much work yet to be done and that next steps include the formation of a working group to study the survey data more deeply and make recommendations for the next two years. Students in a capstone sociology course, taught by Professor of Sociology Kate Linnenberg, will also be studying the survey data and partnering with the college on shaping prevention efforts. Klawitter said that post-survey goals are coalescing around improving victim assistance, better understanding Beloit’s peer culture, learning more about the relationship between alcohol and sexual assault, and increasing trust and transparency in the reporting processes.

Complete survey results are available on the Institutional Research, Assessment, and Planning webpages.