The University is asking thousands of students this week to share their experiences with sexual assault in an online survey, which will give the first in-depth look at the issue on campus.
GW will use a 10-page survey on sexual harassment, stalking and dating violence to help shape resources for victims of those crimes.
“GW is seeking a better understanding about how to prevent incidents of sexual misconduct on our campus and how to respond effectively when such incidents occur,” Terri Harris Reed, the vice provost for diversity and inclusion, said in an email.
The survey, which includes dozens of questions, asks students whether they feel safe from sexual harassment or violence on a daily basis. It also asks whether they have ever engaged in sexual misconduct, such as spreading sexual rumors, making sexual jokes, forcing someone to kiss them or exchanging class notes or money for sex.
It provides space for students to comment on the University’s sexual assault policy, which was approved last year after months of debate between students, faculty and administrators about whether to put a time limit on filing a formal complaint.
A group of top administrators from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, including Reed and Associate Provost Helen Cannaday Saulny, invited students to a closed-door meeting last week to discuss their experiences with sexual assault and make recommendations before the University released the online survey.
Administrators have centralized resources for sexual assault survivors in the past year, launching a website called “Haven.”
Discussion about how to improve GW’s response to sexual assault cases – and how to educate students about preventing sexual violence – has become a significant campus issue over the last few years.
Last year, Student Association executive vice president Kostas Skordalos put the issue at the top of his campaign platform. A founder of GW Men of Strength, Skordalos said he has participated in discussions about how to connect students with sexual assault resources.
He said more students would report sexual assaults if GW supplied students with the resources to keep them informed about and confident in the reporting system.
“Four years ago, it was hard enough getting people to talk about things like this in [freshman orientation] skits, let alone do research surveys sent out to the student body,” Skordalos said. “It just wasn’t something that was talked about. It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but realistically, over the last two years, the issue has just ballooned.”
At the roundtable, Skordalos said he suggested that GW use as a model the University of New Hampshire’s sexual harassment prevention program, which sends annual surveys to the entire student body.
-Vanessa Bajko contributed reporting.