More than 90 percent of students at the University of Notre Dame are familiar with and understand the University’s sexual misconduct and sexual assault policy, but 6 percent of women and 2 percent of men report they have personally experienced non-consensual sexual intercourse, and 19 percent of women and 4 percent of men experienced other forms of non-consensual sexual contact.
Those are among the results of the Sexual Conduct and Campus Climate Questionnaire administered last year by Notre Dame. All enrolled students were invited to participate in the survey, and 38 percent responded. All individual student responses are kept strictly confidential.
“Notre Dame has in the last several years expanded in significant ways the resources in place for sexual assault prevention, education, reporting, investigation, adjudication and support,” the University’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., wrote in a letter to students. “I can assure you that we take allegations of sexual assault very seriously. I want to take this opportunity to thank the many committed student leaders, administrators and faculty who work to address harmful attitudes and behaviors that contribute to sexual violence.
“As positive as these steps are, there is more we can do as the Notre Dame community to address sexual violence, and the survey results reflect this reality. The Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention (CSAP) has worked over the past several months to review the survey results and last week forwarded a series of formal recommendations to Erin Hoffmann Harding, vice president for Student Affairs, for consideration. CSAP is continuing the process of listening to student experiences as it conducts focus groups this month.”
In addition to knowledge of the University’s policies, the vast majority of student participants in the survey are aware of reporting and safety resources on campus; 82 percent know how to contact Notre Dame Security Police and local law enforcement, while 89 percent understand that they have the option to pursue both University and criminal courses of action.
Students also reported that they are most likely to seek advice about reporting sexual misconduct, sexual assault and sexual harassment from another student or friend (90 percent) or a parent, guardian or relative (81 percent). As a result, by encouraging students to seek advice or help from the University, there is the opportunity to provide more students with additional information about on- and off-campus resources, including the deputy Title IX coordinator and local services.
The forms of non-consensual sexual intercourse include oral, anal or vaginal penetration to any degree with any object. Other forms of non-consensual sexual contact include any touching or contact of a sexual nature.
The survey also shows that the University has further opportunity to better educate students on reporting. Barriers to reporting include discomfort in discussing details of an incident (64 percent), a fear that their reputation would be damaged (61 percent), a desire to forget about the incident (56 percent) and a fear of “getting in trouble” (56 percent). The latter barrier is a particular educational opportunity to help students understand that, by policy, the University will not refer a victim or witness to the conduct process for lesser violations such as breaking parietals or an alcohol violation.
Some 58 percent of students believe that the University has responded to sexual misconduct incidents effectively, but 27 percent are neutral and 15 percent disagree. Student written responses urged more transparency on this topic, including the release of the climate survey results. Only 2 percent of students had participated in University administrative investigation or administrative hearing processes that occur each time the University receives an official report of an instance of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence or stalking. Satisfaction with the impartiality, timing and outcome of administrative investigations and university conduct processes for these students was mixed across all dimensions, with some of the small number of students satisfied and others dissatisfied.
Notre Dame was among the first universities to administer a Title IX climate survey, in 2012, when major themes were shared with the University community.
In conjunction with the release of the latest survey, the University has created an updated and expanded website, titleix.nd.edu, to provide a summary of the results of the survey, the results themselves, the letter from Father Jenkins, CSAP’s recommendations and information on programs, policies, resources and support.
The climate surveys are one aspect in Notre Dame’s wide-ranging approach to eliminating sexual harassment and sexual violence on campus. Other efforts and initiatives include:
Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention (CSAP)
CSAP is a cross-campus committee composed of faculty, staff and students. The goals of CSAP are to offer advice and guidance to the Vice President for Student Affairs on how to assist and support victims of sexual assault, to spearhead assessment efforts to understand the needs of students, to recommend a variety of prevention initiatives, and to facilitate collaboration among departments and student groups to address sexual violence.
This past November, Notre Dame publicly launched the nationally recognized Green Dot violence prevention strategy on campus, engaging students, faculty and staff in the prevention of power-based personal violence such as stalking, dating violence, domestic violence and sexual assault. The goal of Green Dot is to promote culture change and to engage proactive bystanders campus-wide to communicate that violence will not be tolerated at Notre Dame, and that everyone has a responsibility to help. Green Dot is being utilized in conjunction with existing programs also used to prevent and report power-based personal violence. A series of campus events, including five Green Dot-themed athletic match-ups, six promotional events, ongoing overview speeches, bystander trainings, student programming and a social media campaign, have engaged more than 8,500 campus community members to date.
Gender Relations Center (GRC)
Led by administrators and students, the Gender Relations Center offers student programs that foster dialogue on issues of sexuality, gender, inclusivity, respect and healthy relationships on campus. The GRC offers many programs about violence prevention, particularly bystander intervention training, and trains student leaders to do campus-wide programs and residence hall workshops.
An Ongoing Commitment to Education and Prevention
Faculty and staff have collaborated to create a comprehensive program to raise awareness and provide support to students throughout their enrollment at the University:
Throughout the year, the University holds multiple awareness events, particularly during October (Dating/Domestic Violence Awareness Month), January (Stalking Awareness Month) and April (Sexual Violence Awareness Month). Community members are encouraged to participate in local and national campaigns about creating awareness and victim support such as Take Back the Night, The Clothesline Project and Denim Day.
There are numerous educational initiatives focused on forming healthy relationships as well as how to help someone who is harmed by sexual or interpersonal violence. Student leaders, especially hall staff, peer educators and student-athletes, receive intensive training on bystander intervention strategies and the list of support resources. The University holds bystander intervention training for all students as well as public events in support of survivors, particularly Student Government prayer services and the Time to Heal Dinner sponsored by the Gender Relations Center and campus partners.
The First Year at Notre Dame
Prior to arriving on campus, incoming undergraduate students participate in the first phase of Building Community the Notre Dame Way, an educational program featuring videos that introduce the values of the campus community, discuss respecting the dignity of persons and explore conversations about forming healthy relationships. In the second phase, on Monday of Welcome Weekend, students debrief the online video content delivered over the summer. Through small group sessions, organized by Moreau First Year Experience course sections, staff and peer educators facilitate discussion on the different types of sexual and gender violence, prevention and intervention strategies, as well as resources for support. Throughout the Moreau First Year Experience course, incoming students further their understanding of the sexual assault resources on campus, state laws and campus community standards. Additionally, they learn about the skills needed to maintain healthy relationships, how to handle conflict and violence while dating, and bystander intervention, among other topics.
Incoming graduate and professional students also receive training during their orientation on policies, procedures and resources related to sexual assault, not only from the student viewpoint but also from the perspective of a potential supervisor or instructor.
Designed and implemented by Student Government, the “One is Too Many” student engagement and conversation campaign addresses sexual violence on campus with students going door to door to educate their peers. Student Government also launched “It’s On Us,” a campaign aimed at sexual assault culture change, adapted from the nationally recognized campaign of the same name.
Creating a Campus-Wide Community of Caring
Notre Dame provides sexual and discrimination harassment training for faculty and staff, and individualized department training for stakeholders across campus, including coaches, sport administrators, deans, food service workers and other employees. All new faculty and staff receive this training as a part of their orientation process.
Communicating Expectations and Addressing Issues
The University of Notre Dame has adopted a policy on sexual and discriminatory harassment that applies to all faculty, staff and students. The policy includes definitions of sexual assault, non-consensual sexual contact, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and conduct that creates a hostile environment. These definitions are also articulated in du Lac: A Guide to Student Life, Notre Dame’s student handbook.
Originally published by Dennis Brown at news.nd.edu on April 17, 2016.