New survey on sexual climate suggests more awareness of services is needed

Jennifer Freyd
Jennifer Freyd, professor, Department of Psychology

A new survey on sexual victimization issues at the University of Oregon reaffirms previous findings that there is a need to increase awareness about available services, while decreasing negative perceptions of institutional support.

Psychology professor Jennifer Freyd provided preliminary findings of the UO survey at the 20th International Summit & Training on Violence, Abuse & Trauma during a two-hour keynote session Aug. 24 that was devoted to current research and prevention approaches.  
 
The new findings are mostly in agreement with those reported from a 2014 survey. For example, one in five undergraduate women in the new survey reported attempted or completed unwanted sexual penetration, almost identical to 2014. However, there was a decline, from 35 percent to 28 percent, in the reporting of attempted and completed physical contact of any type in the new survey.

Fifty-two percent of 795 undergraduates who completed the 2015 survey were “not at all" aware that the UO had Title IX officers to handle complaints about sexual issues; 50 percent did not know a bias-response team existed. There also was lack of awareness about student legal services and sexual assault support services.

“These numbers suggest a need for more education so students know about services that are available to them,” Freyd said. “Efforts have been made, but these efforts need to be more engaging and pertinent to students so they don’t tune out.”

New issues did surface with the inclusion of data collected from graduate students. What stood out, Freyd said, was that female students, especially in the law school, experienced higher levels of harassment-related events from faculty or staff than did undergraduate women.

More details on Freyd’s talk are at: Low awareness of services, perceptions of support continue in campus sex climate.

While at the conference, Freyd, on Aug. 25, also received the William Friedrich Memorial Child Sexual Abuse Research, Assessment and/or Treatment Award. The award — dedicated to the memory of psychologist William Friedrich, one of the nation’s leading researchers on child abuse who died in 2005 — is given to new or established researchers or practitioners who have made substantial contributions to the field of child sexual abuse.

The UO will review the 2015 survey and the AAU climate survey that is expected to come in September and use the information from both reports to help the university continue to improve prevention and support services, said Robin Holmes, vice president for student life.
 
“This kind of survey information is critically important to our understanding of students’ experiences and their understanding of the services we have available to help them,” Holmes said. “We will continue to use climate surveys to assess our progress and make improvements, as part of our ongoing initiatives.”

Last year the UO began implementing dozens of recommendations made in reports by the Division of Student Life, a University Senate task force and the President’s Review Panel related to sexual assault prevention, response and survivor support.

Just last week, an administrative team of administrators and staff working on the UO’s sexual assault prevention and response initiatives published a preliminary update on the status of all of the current investments and programs. 

The 2015 online survey conducted by Freyd and a team of graduate students drew data from 1,334 students — including 501 undergraduate and 324 graduate-level women. The 2014 survey covered 982 undergraduates.

The new UO survey repeated many of the same questions as in 2014, but it also incorporated positive factors students experienced and more questions about institutional response and betrayal. The 2015 UO survey is the first to emerge from four pilot studies being done in a national effort by the Administrator Researcher Campus Climate Collaboration that involves 20 U.S. university campuses.

“I am grateful that Jennifer Freyd has done research to provide us with important insight into this pressing matter,” said UO President Michael H. Schill. “While the results do not surprise me and are not inconsistent with data from other universities, that does not mean that they are acceptable. To the contrary, any amount of sexual violence on campus is too much. I look forward to analyzing the data and working with our faculty, administrators and students to combat the problem.”

The UO also recently entered into a settlement with the plaintiff in the “Jane Doe” case as part of the UO’s commitment to addressing sexual violence on campus. That settlement was addressed in a statement by Schill.

— By Jim Barlow, Public Affairs Communications