Two weeks ago, the Record published the first set of data from the Eph Community Attitudes on Sexual Assault (EPHCASA) Campus Climate Survey, conducted by the Department of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. Last week, the department released the next set of data collected from the survey results. The survey was conducted last fall, three years after the first survey was conducted in the 2014-2015 academic year.
Analyzing the data, Director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Meg Bossong ’05 explained that the responses constituted an accurate sample of the College community. “By class year, gender identity and race, [the data] was representative,” she said. “Sexual orientation is tough because we don’t really collect that in any other place, so it’s hard to tell, but it appears to be representative. For the measures that we can see demographically, we have a good cross-section of the campus. There are not obvious over- or under-response biases that we see.”
While the first group of data examined incidence rates and campus culture, the second set of data sheds light on relationships between victims and perpetrators, informal and formal reporting rates and sources that students reach out to.
Bossong emphasized the extent to which the data shows that students often know their offenders. “A lot of people are falling into the current or former partner, former friend, friend group,” she said. “That’s a trend that holds all the way through.”
However, these trends did vary based on the type of incident. Unwanted touching, for example, was more likely to be perpetrated by strangers. “So much of it is happening in campus event spaces, which allows for a little bit more relational distance between people,” Bossong explained. Attempted or completed assault, however, was far more likely to be perpetrated by close relations or acquaintances.
Bossong also emphasized the data on levels of reporting. Attempted or completed assault saw a slight increase in telling and reporting from three years ago, which Bossong attributed to conversations surrounding the topic. “This doesn’t surprise me because I think we talk so much about this particular kind of violence that it’s a little more de-stigmatized,” she said. “People are a little more accustomed to talking about it.”
Beyond simply looking at whether or not students told or reported their experiences, the survey also examined which types of people students were most likely to confide in. This data was consistent throughout the different types of incidents. “Friend, classmate or peer is always the number-one answer,” Bossong said. “Family member and JAs [Junior Advisors] flip-flop back and forth for second and third. People at the Health Center are the largest non-peer receivers of disclosures.”
This data on who students tell their stories to will help determine how to use the survey data to create change on campus. “I think one of the big concerns is that people’s peers are carrying an incredible amount of secondary trauma from these experiences, an incredible amount of front-line support, worry and care,” Bossong explained. “I think there’s a way that we can think about how to better support people’s friends in making that next-step resource connection, so that people can feel some freedom around their friendships being able to just be friendships and not necessarily their primary support functions.”
For Bossong, students will play a key role in making this change. She hopes this issue will be one of the focuses of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Working Group (SAPA). SAPA is made up of students and staff, including Bossong and members from the Davis Center and Health Center.
Student representatives come from the JA system, the neighborhood system, College Council, MASC [Masculinity, Accountability, Sexual assault, Consent], RASAN [Rape and Sexual Assault Network], SAAC [Student Athletic Advisory Committee] and the student body at large.
In the past, SAPA has worked on survey design and policy research change. Bossong views the group as a crucial link between research and students. “All of the groups that would potentially be doing programs are in a room together and able be more collaborative and intersectional rather than duplicating efforts over and over,” she said. “Things don’t work around here if they’re not collaborative and grounded in everyday lived experiences.”