Survey shows scope of sex harassment, dating violence at UH

Published: Jan. 8, 2018 at 3:28 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 8, 2018 at 5:57 PM HST
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MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than 22 percent of female students at the University of Hawaii have experienced dating or domestic violence, and about 12 percent have been sexually harassed or stalked during their time there, according to an expansive new survey released Monday.

Meanwhile, 8.5 percent of female students said they'd experienced nonconsensual sexual contact.

The survey comes as a number of industries deal with a cascade of sex harassment and assault allegations.

It also comes as the UH system waits for the results of an audit by the U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights Office.  In 2014, the office announced that UH Manoa was being audited to ensure compliance with Title IX rules.  Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

"The Office of Civil Rights did investigations of 55 universities all over the United States so it was a huge wake up call for all of higher education," says Representative Linda Ichiyama who is a member of the Women's Legislative Caucus.

The survey was sent to all 44,671 students across the 10-campus system, but only 6,311 responded to the 125 questions that asked about experiences with sexual harassment and gender-based violence both on and off campus.

The one issue that stands out for UH leaders, that only 27 percent knew how to report it if they became a victim.

"We probably need to do a better job of getting the word out." says David Lassner, president of the University of Hawaii system.

A list of phone numbers and places students can go for help was sent out in response. UH has also partnered with advocacy groups to provide volunteers on every campus.

Nanci Kreidman, of the Domestic Violence Action Center, says the increased awareness will likely result in a spike in future survey numbers but that the public shouldn't be alarmed.

That means people know there's help. That means people who are experiencing it are reaching out to receive help. That means they know where to go when they need help. So my anticipation is we're going to see these numbers go up, continue to go up and that's a good thing."

Nationally, this was one of the first known surveys of college students to explore intimate partner violence, the university said. It was also one of the first surveys of students in a university system with both four- and two-year degree campuses.

It cost about $175,000 to conduct the survey, which was administered by a private group not affiliated with UH.

Lawmakers appropriated the funds and will continue to pay for more surveys every two years.

The questions were broken down into several sections, including sexual harassment, stalking, nonconsensual sexual contact, reported impacts of gender violence incidents, student disclosure of gender violence and satisfaction among those contacting UH programs, perceptions of UH campus climate, and student bystander prevalence and behavior.

Among some of the key findings:

  • About 9.3 percent of all students reported experiencing sexual harassment at any time, with a majority describing the offender as a UH student, followed by UH faculty, staff and other UH-associated personnel.
  • Stalking was reported by approximately 9.7 percent of students at any time while enrolled at UH.
  • Approximately 19.1 percent reported experiencing dating and domestic violence while at UH.
  • About 6.3 percent reported nonconsensual sexual contact while at UH.

Overall, though, participants did not feel at risk for sexual assault or misconduct, with 57.5 percent indicating very little problems at UH and about 85.3 percent feeling it was unlikely they would personally experience sexual assault or sexual harassment while on campus.

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