By Carleigh Turner, The Miami Student
Over a quarter of female undergraduates living on Miami University’s Oxford campus reported being raped during their time at the university, according to the results from Miami’s Annual Climate Survey, obtained by The Miami Student in August.
“[That statistic] is unacceptable,” said Claire Wagner, director of university news and communications. “We see figures close to this across the country, and I think some people have trouble believing it because they believe what they think their experience is.”
In addition to the 26.3 percent of female undergraduate Oxford students who reported experiencing rape, the survey also found that 7.7 percent of them experienced attempted rape.
Of male undergraduate students living in Oxford, 5.8 percent reported being raped while at Miami.
“I wish our numbers looked different. I would be happy if they were much, much lower. No amount of sexual assault is okay,” said Rose Marie Ward. Ward, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health, has been collecting data on sexual assault for 14 years.
On April 4, all degree-seeking students at Miami received an email from Ward asking them to participate in Miami’s Annual Climate Survey. Of those students, 2,794 responded, about 13 percent.
“We need more [responses] than that,” Ward said. “We need students to show they feel [sexual assault] is important by completing the survey… In order to be effective we need to know the full scope of the problem.”
This response rate, which is slightly less than last year’s 15 percent, may not fully represent Miami’s climate, according to Dean of Students Mike Curme.
“The results we have provide an important look into the experiences of the students who responded to the survey, but it is difficult to extrapolate the results to the entire campus,” Curme said in an email to the Miami Student. “I think this is an important point, but it does not diminish the concern we have over the number of reported experiences of those who responded to the survey.”
Curme said finding ways to increase response rates for the annual climate survey will be an important component of their efforts to increase awareness.
This is the second year Miami has conducted a Climate Survey. However, the statistics will look different this year since the 2016 survey asked students to report experiences throughout their entire time at Miami. Last year’s survey only asked students to report events that occurred within a 12-month span.
Ward said the decision to have the survey include data from a student’s entire time at Miami could provide a more accurate picture of what Miami’s climate is actually like. Miami needs to understand the scope of the problem before they begin to address it, said Ward.
“It’s like saying, ‘Let’s go in, there’s a fire!’ without knowing what type of fire it is. If it is a grease fire, you could potentially make it worse,” Ward said.
The survey did not just look into sexual assaults, however. It also collected data on other reported crimes on campus such as domestic violence and stalking.
“The fact that we can monitor [domestic violence and stalking] and say this is what’s happening on our campus, this is what our students are experiencing, will not only help us be able to educate on what people are experiencing, but also get them what they need,” Becca Getson, Miami’s Title IX coordinator, said.
Some questions on the survey were also designed to look at perpetrator behavior. However, that data is still being analyzed, according to Curme.
Getson said the most striking statistic for her however, was the amount of students who reported having received training in sexual and interpersonal violence prevention. This training includes programs such as, Haven, an online training program focusing on sexual assault prevention, or the recently added Welcome Week program for new students, “It is Our Place.”
“The climate survey always reminds us there is more that we can do, and this was something that was pretty important to us, especially for the new students coming in,” Curme said.
“It is Our Place” utilized skits and emphasized concepts such as affirmative consent.
Miami is making some other big changes, following the climate surveys, which reinforce a longstanding commitment to education and prevention efforts, said Curme.
Miami, partnered with Women Helping Women (WHW), a local rape crisis center, has applied for a grant to hire a sexual assault advocate that would be available to students on campus. However, whether the university receives the grant or not, Miami will have a WHW advocate on campus at least part time this fall, said Curme.
The Office of Student Wellness is also in the final interviewing process for hiring an Outreach and Education Coordinator for Sexual and Interpersonal Violence, who will focus on sexual and interpersonal violence prevention and education. The position is full-time and should be filled this fall.
Student Counseling Services has also given four counselors specific interpersonal violence training so they may more specifically assist survivors, according to Wagner.
The university plans on expanding its It’s on Us! Campaign as well, while continuing and enhancing what the university already has in place.
“At graduation I’m going to ask every [student] what one thing did you do to help prevent sexual and interpersonal violence on this campus,” Curme said. “And every student should be challenged to do that.”