April 24, 2019 | 63° F

Rutgers utilizes campus survey to increase awareness of sexual violence

Photo by Rutgers.edu |

For those who have experienced sexual violence prior to starting college, Sarah McMahon, associate director of the Center on Violence Against Women and Children at Rutgers University, said the University connects students with available resources at orientation.

Lawmakers are looking at new ways to implement sexual violence awareness in New Jersey schools following a report that suggests college campus surveys as a useful tool.

The “Addressing Campus Sexual Violence” report drafted by the New Jersey Task Force on Campus Sexual Assault  —  in conjunction with the University’s Center on Violence Against Women and Children and the Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women — follows up on the group’s initial report outlined in the “Not Alone Report.”

Released in 2014, it outlines plans to address campus-based sexual violence by offering schools guidance and proper resources, according to the "Not Alone Report." The 2017 report follows up with added resources.

“In nearly 85 percent of sexual violence cases, the victims know their attackers. Frequently, they fail to report the crime to any campus or law enforcement authority … In one national survey of nine higher education institutions, students reported 770 completed rapes on campus during the 2014-15 academic year, but only 40 of those were reported to campus authorities under Clery Act guidelines,” according to 2017 the report.

One of the main suggestions highlighted throughout is the integration of a sexual-violence campus-climate survey at every higher education institution in New Jersey. This is to be accomplished by using a validated research tool and methods that can scientifically pull information from students, faculty members and staff.

Sarah McMahon, associate director of the Center on Violence Against Women and Children at Rutgers University, said Rutgers conducted the survey on several of its campuses and found that close to a quarter of women experienced some kind of sexual violence prior to visiting campus.

“We now, at our orientation, make sure that we speak to those students directly in letting them know we have resources available if they experienced something prior. We’ve changed our screening procedures in our health centers so that we ask about previous sexual violence,” McMahon said.

Among its list of suggestions, the report endorses sexual-violence education that starts before students enter college. It highlights the need for a Sexual Violence Primary Prevention Task Force for New Jersey, which researches the best practices for teaching curriculum content from middle school and throughout high school. 

It also states that schools should maintain close campus-community partnerships and guarantee equal representation for accusers and the accused.   

“Those students are still going to be in our communities, and so we need to figure out ways to work with them to provide education and support to help them try to change their behaviors,” McMahon said.

Christian Zapata

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