Sexual violence survey results to inform security

Media Credit: Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Graduate student enrollment decreased in the School of Engineering and Applied Science this year – a drop which comes at the same time as the Science and Engineering Hall, GW's largest academic investment, opened.

Details from GW’s campus-wide survey to gauge the campus climate around sexual violence will now help officials pinpoint ways to better address security concerns.

About 20 percent of female freshmen respondents said they don’t feel safe on campus at night, according to the results released this week. One in five of the graduate students surveyed said the same.

Senior Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Darrell Darnell said he would review students’ survey responses “to learn more about their thinking,” and that the survey is a tool his office can use to target resources.

“We will consider the results of the survey just as we would all other sources of information in determining how to best utilize our officers and other resources,” Darnell said in an email.

Overall, more than 90 percent of the undergraduate students surveyed said they felt either “safe” or “very safe” on campus during the morning, afternoon and evening. The survey, conducted almost a year ago, found that more than half of undergraduate students felt safe on campus during the night. Researchers polled 234 female undergraduates and 203 female graduate students, about 100 more women than men.

Darnell said students should take advantage of services like 4-RIDE, which drives students around campus from 7 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Last February, 4-RIDE added 15-passenger vans to meet the demand for students who wanted to go off campus. He also said students should use the GW PAL app, which gives them a way to report emergencies on campus without having to dial a phone number.

Services like 4-RIDE can help students feel secure at night, national campus security consultant Michael Dorn said.

“We would rather escort you all over campus than respond to one report where you’ve been victimized,” he said.

Students could feel less safe at night if they have moved to D.C. from a rural area, Dorn added. He also said graduate students may feel unsafe because most of their classes are at night, and many of them commute.

In November, a 21-year-old GW student reported that she was sexually assaulted at night in an incident involving three men in an alley just off campus.

A month earlier, Darnell declined to say whether campus police made changes to their patrols after a man was arrested for attempting to sexually abuse two female students near the Foggy Bottom Metro station late at night. Twenty-three sexual abuses were reported to campus police last semester, the largest total in a semester in four years.

Mark Wynn, a national campus safety and security consultant, said students may become more anxious about their own safety on campus if news media cover a number of crimes, like stalking or sexual assault cases.

“Most parents of first-year students are given all these safety talks about being out late at night, and knowing their surroundings,” he said. “Those things are on a lot of student’s minds.”

Wynn added that administrators should use the survey data to create focus groups of students, who could say where they feel most unsafe on campus.

Scott Berkowitz, the executive director of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, said it’s important to let students know they have an “ally” in the University.

“It’s not fair to them that they go through college with fear, not feeling safe on campus, because it’ll hurt them and their academic performance,” Berkowitz said.

Ellie Smith contributed reporting.

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