In survey, students say GW can better raise awareness of sexual violence

The majority of students say GW must do more to raise awareness of sexual harassment on campus, according to survey responses released Wednesday.

The results from the 40-question anonymous campus climate survey come almost a year after the University conducted the questionnaire. A total of 713 graduates and undergraduate students filled out the survey, part of GW’s efforts to improve its sexual assault response and better create programming to support students.

Almost a quarter of undergraduates said they had experienced sexual harassment, sexual violence, dating or domestic violence, or stalking while enrolled at GW, according to the survey. Eighteen percent of undergraduates said they had carried out those actions.

About half of all students said they “didn’t know” if the University would respond adequately to a reported incident.

– Thirty-six percent of female upperclassmen and 35 percent of LGBT students said they had experienced “unwanted sexual behavior,” such as receiving unwanted comments, sexual pictures or notes. Members of those groups also experienced forced sexual encounters at the highest rate, 31 percent.

– About 80 percent of students said they did not know how to contact a Title IX coordinator or the University’s Sexual Assault Response Consultative team, a trained group of staff members that provides resources and information to survivors.

– Fifteen percent of undergraduate students and 6 percent of graduate students said GW hasn’t been successful in creating “a climate free from unwanted sexual behavior.”

– About 21 percent of female freshmen said they felt unsafe on campus at night.

– About 45 percent of undergraduates and graduate students said they were “neutral” when asked to rate how effectively the University creates a climate free of unwanted sexual behavior.

The survey also included space for students to make comments about GW’s sexual assault policy, which was approved two years ago.

“It’s clear we need to do more to raise education and awareness,” Title IX Coordinator Rory Muhammad said in a release. “We need to have more targeted efforts, both with the content of our programming and the delivery of it to specific communities on campus.”

Sexual assault has become a more prominent topic on campus over the last year, leading to a cascade of changes from the University. Officials hired a permanent Title IX coordinator in November, filling a nearly year-long vacancy in the office.

GW is also in the process of hiring an assistant Title IX coordinator, who will help create bystander intervention trainings, Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed said recently.

At the end of last semester, officials created a sexual assault prevention committee, which brought together a group of students and faculty members to talk about University resources and ways to improve the response to sexual violence on campus. So far, that group has talked about starting trainings or creating a flowchart to teach faculty the role they would play if a student approached them about a sexual assault.

Twenty-three sexual abuses were reported to the University Police Department last semester, the most reported to campus police in any semester over the last four years, according to a Hatchet analysis of GW crime logs.

Conducting an anonymous survey is one of the benchmarks that a White House task force has recommended as an effective way to help prevent sexual assault. GW signed on to the White House’s sexual assault prevention campaign, “It’s On Us,” in September, alongside hundreds of other colleges.

About 3,000 students received the random survey in their GW email inboxes.

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