Government insists on sexual assault awareness survey

The Campus Climate Survey has been recently circulating to Seton Hall students via e-mail and at first glance, readers may not realize how important a topic it is. The survey is part of a government initiative to get colleges and universities talking about sexual assault and violence on campus.

“The federal government has really insisted that we have the conversation and we think it is an important conversation for us to have,” said Dr. Tracy Gottlieb, vice president of student services.

She added it is a “delicate conversation,” but that is why the University has to bring it forward, “to change attitudes and approaches to sexual assault.”

Dean of Students and Associate Vice President Karen Van Norman also stressed that the discussion is on violence, not sex.

“Anything we can do to increase the safety of our students, the safety of our campus, is more than worth our time and effort,” she said.

The name of the survey, “Campus Climate,” comes from the government, Van Norman said, because it’s about the overall “climate” of the campus, not just sexual assault. The survey is still live and will continue to be for another week or so because the Law School has not had the opportunity to take it yet, according to Van Norman. Therefore, the results of it are not in, and Van Norman said she is not sure yet what the University will do with them when they come in.

“I would expect, and the same way we introduced the survey, that what we learn will help to inform us in terms of educational prevention programs that we put out going forward,” she said.

Gottlieb also said the survey results will hopefully help the University decrease the amount of incidents on campus, by seeing if their efforts thus far (campaigning and awareness projects) have been working.

For this academic year to date, there have been 13 reports of sexual violence, although not all of the incidents happened this year, this is just when they were reported, according to Van Norman. She said she hopes this survey will help others feel comfortable coming forward, too.

Van Norman added that she expects for the next couple of years to see an increase in reports until it levels off and starts to decrease due to the anticipated success of the awareness campaign. The survey is completely anonymous and Van Norman encourages students to answer it while they still can.

While the University looked at other surveys that included instances where students witnessed a sexual assault but were not themselves a victim, she said Seton Hall decided against including such a category because it could have led to “double and triple reporting,” of assaults. However, such questions could be included in future surveys, she said.

Van Norman said as far as reporting sexual assaults, it is largely up to the victim. University officials will investigate as much as they can, cooperate with police (if the victim chooses to report outside of Seton Hall) when called for and encourage and support the victim in any way they can.

“We certainly can’t require a victim to go off campus, but we want to support and encourage reporting,” she said. If a victim does choose to report the assault, he or she can contact the Department of Public Safety, which operates 24/7, or someone in the Dean of Students’ office 24/7. However, students who wish to keep their stories confidential can go to Counseling Services or Campus Ministry.

“They can reach a councilor 24/7 through Public Safety, as well,” Van Norman said. “Anyone who has been a victim, we encourage you to come forward and report.”

“College students are more powerful than they think they are,” Gottlieb added. “You have the power to stop something, and sometimes its gang mentality that you’re afraid to intervene, and we’re really hoping to raise our students’ awareness that we look out for each other.”

Lindsay Rittenhouse can be reached at lindsay.rittenhouse@student.shu.edu.

Author: Lindsay Rittenhouse

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