Survey details sexual violence at MU

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COLUMBIA - A recent survey shows an estimated 31 percent of University of Missouri female seniors said they have been victims of some degree of unwanted sexual conduct in their time at MU.

The 2015 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct was released Monday by MU. It was conducted by the Association of American Universities.

MU's average exceeded the AAU average, which was 26 percent.

Students were asked whether or not they would report a sexual assault or misconduct to the university. About 21 percent of female victims who experienced assault by force did report it to MU officials. The AAU average of all 27 schools was 25 percent. 

Following the survey, MU Provost Garnett Stokes said she is creating a Sexual Violence Prevention and Campus Climate Task Force. It will gather focus groups to more closely examine the results of the survey and find opportunities for improvement, services and further prevention efforts, she said.

The survey revealed about 65 percent of MU students said it is likely their report would be taken seriously by MU officials. 56 percent said it is very likely the safety of those reporting incidents would be protected by University officials.

"These results show us that we still have much work to do. I am encouraged, however, that a large percentage of our students know how and to whom they should report these incidents," Stokes said. 

One MU junior said she personally feels safe on campus because she makes certain to surround herself by people she trusts and avoids uncomfortable situations. However, she thinks the number of people who do become victims is way too high. 

"The fact that that many people will be affected by sexual harassment or by sexual assault or anything pertaining to that, is absolutely crazy," Chloe Brim said. 

MU Title IX Administrator Ellen Eardley said the survey results are an opportunity for MU to take a closer look at what the climate actually is on campus. She said the number of senior women who have become victims shows the university has a lot of education to do about what is consent and what kind of behaviors are appropriate on campus. 

"Students don't understand that what is happening to them is important or severe enough to report, they don't know that it is a policy violation. So our education and prevention measures need to do more to help students understand what sex discrimination really is," Eardley said. 

Students were asked whether they would choose to report a sexual assault or misconduct to university officials. About 21 percent of female victims who experienced penetration by force did report it to MU, implying more than 70 percent of victims did not report it at all. 

Eardley said people don't report incidents for a number of reasons.

"They may not want to go through any kind of process, they may not want to share their story, they may want to work on their own emotional healing and focus on counseling or getting through school. One of our messages is that we can help you with that at the Title IX office. We can help you get accommodations and services, even if you don't want to go through any kind of disciplinary process," she said. 

More than 55 percent of students said they had witnessed a drunken person headed for sexual encounter, but more than 70 percent said they did nothing about it. Eardley said all of these numbers are a part of their education procress and they need to understand what students are thinking when they are heading toward a sexual encounter while drunk. 

Eardley said several sets of peer educators are placed within different organizations on campus to teach each other about the prevention of sexual misconduct. These include the Relationships and Sexual Violence Prevention Center, the Interfraternity Council, and Sexual Health Advocate Peer Education.

"Students want to learn from each other about how to interrupt and stop this behavior, and when they can have really frank and honest discussions with one another about how they have successfully intervened, how they have stood up for their peers, what they did to call someone out, I think it empowers them to take action on our campus," Eardley said. 

In the past 18 month, MU has taken several steps designed to eliminate sexual assaults on campus, including the creation of the Title IX Office, implementation of the "Not Anymore" online program and online sex discrimination training for all MU staff.