Sexual assault forum commences

A total of 434 students, 19 percent of the student body, responded to the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault sent to the Trinity campus in the spring of 2015. Of those respondents, 27 students reported that they had been sexually assaulted.

The Coalition for Respect held a forum on Thursday, October 29 discussing the results of the Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey.

Following the discussion on the survey, a panel discussion was held; members included Melissa Flowers, director of Residential Life, Steven Bachrach, assistant vice-president for special projects and Title IX coordinator, Laura Hernandez, corporal investigator for TUPD, Iris Baughman, student representative for the Coalition for Respect and Kristin Eisenhauer, senior psychologist for counseling services. The panel was moderated by Brenna Hill, student government association senator.

Trinity is a part of a national push for universities to assess the attitudes on campus towards sexual assault. In 2014, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault was launched, creating the “Not Alone” program. This prompted universities to assess their own campus’ attitudes towards sexual assault and to work towards prevention.

Trinity’s Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault was compared to other “small institutions” that included 54 institutions with 3,500 or fewer undergraduates.

According to the Report on the Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey, sexual assault includes a multitude of variations of sexual contact that were unwanted and not consented to.

The 27 sexual assault survivors further notes that their assailants were 89 percent male and most were known to the person that was assaulted. 15 percent of the 27 respondents indicated that their current romantic partner assaulted them. A total of 27 percent of the assaults involved a stranger.

Sheryl Tynes, associate vice president for academic affairs serves as a co-chair for the Coalition for Respect’s Education and Prevention subcommittee, explained the results of the survey to the forum. Tynes described a time period when students are most often to be sexually assaulted.

“There’s a lot of national research, people talking about a “˜red zone.’ This is somewhere in the first few weeks maybe the first months up to Thanksgiving when students are more likely to be sexually assaulted,” Tynes said. “You can see Trinity fits that pattern. That’s why we do the sexual assault program the very first Friday night of new student orientation, because we know stuff is happening.”

The survey indicated that five percent of sexual assault occurred during new student orientation, 58 percent occurred during the first year, 22 percent occurred during the second year and 15 percent occurred during the third year.

The other small institutions that were polled had an average of 27 percent of their student bodies respond to their survey. At Trinity, that response rate was much lower at 19 percent.

“It would be nice to get our response rate up,” Tynes said. “I think that in any kind of survey like this, people are more likely to respond if it resonates with them or if it impacts them.”

The survey indicated that 50 percent of instances included another person or other people drinking alcohol, and 25 percent of other person or people using drugs. 72 percent of the sexual assault survivors indicated that they were drinking alcohol during the sexual assault incident.

Flowers described the effect of substance abuse on sexual misconduct instances.

“I think the slides made it clear that the party culture on this campus should be examined. That particular slide didn’t show comparison data to other institutions, but we had an opportunity to look at that as well, and Trinity is a little higher with regards to alcohol consumption for those who have experienced sexual misconduct and sexual assault,” Flowers said. “We can make every policy we want but we can’t necessarily enforce everywhere. We can’t enforce off campus parties or in every singular residence hall room.”

The Step Up: Bystander Action program is intended to stop sexual assault instances through intervention, according to Eisenhauer.

“That’s where Step Up: Bystander Action program comes in because we’re teaching students skills for parties and events where we’re not present to be able to address the situation if it looks like it’s going awry. So friends can be on the front line and do the right thing. We’ve now trained all the first years, sophomores and juniors. By the end of next year the whole campus will be trained and we’ll really have no excuse for not stepping up to intervene,” Eisenhauer said.

Dean Tuttle, the associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, explains the prevention plans of the Coalition for Respect in the future. SGA and the Coalition for Respect plan to host another forum in the spring and a mock sexual assault case.

“SGA is going to host a student-only forum in the spring. So the focus wouldn’t be on what the institution doing, but what the students are doing to create the culture,” Tuttle said.

The forum was attended by approximately 25 individuals.

A student from the crowd asked the panelists, “What do you think about the fact there’s like 20 people here and there’s about 2,000 people at this school? Do you think that says anything about how people feel about this or what kind of importance they put on this topic?”

Baughman explained the importance of continuing the discussion of sexual assault at Trinity despite low attendance to forums.

“I would say that even with poor attendance, I would say that it’s still really important to have events like this,” Baughman said. “I’m happy to be a part of something even if there’s not a huge audience for it, just to keep the sentiment that we care about sexual assault at Trinity and that we’re keeping a pulse on it.”