The University did not participate in this year’s Association of American Universities’ sexual misconduct survey, and officials cite the UT System’s own study in 2017 as the reason why.
The 2019 Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey is a follow-up to the 2015 Campus Climate Survey and found that nonconsensual sexual contact rates and knowledge of school resources have increased on college campuses. The University participated in 2015 alongside Texas A&M but was one of few who did not participate this year.
Melanie Susswein, Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault director of marketing and communications at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, said the UT System preferred conducting their own study because they could control how it was conducted and get specific information on UT schools.
UT’s report, Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments, found 39% of sexual harassment victims and non-victims know campus resources for interpersonal violence. Similarly, the Association of American Universities’ report found that about a third of students know where to find interpersonal violence resources and how to report an incident.
“You have so much information thrown at you at orientation, and it’s just one of those things you don’t pay much attention to,” said Kierstyn Gallegos, Voices Against Violence co-president. “It’s one of those pamphlets that you get home and you toss to the side and never look at it again.”
Public health junior Gallegos said she acknowledges the University’s efforts, but the awareness around sexual assault and harassment could be improved.
“The University is trying, but it can always try harder,” Gallegos said.
Susswein said the Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments report only has data on victims who reported an incident. Gallegos said students who do not know about campus resources are less likely to report.
“Sometimes you don’t want to put a label on something because it makes it more real to you,” Gallegos said. “Being aware of the resources you have can make someone more confident in reporting.”
Resources that exist outside of student organizations are not as advertised, said Sophia Santoyo, Voices Against Violence co-president and Interpersonal Violence Peer Support peer mentor.
“People aren’t as aware of (Interpersonal Violence Peer Support) as they are of students organizations,” said Santoyo, a government and psychology junior. “You get videos on sexual assault and what falls under that, but you don’t get a sense of any resources like Title IX.”
According to the Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments report, 84% of cases where faculty or staff perpetrated sexual harassment occurred on campus, and 56% of cases where students perpetrated sexual harassment occurred on campus. The report said 68% of victims did not tell anyone about their incident before taking the survey.
The Me Too Movement and the Brett Kavanaugh protests that occurred last fall have affected students on campus and more people have reached out for resources and help, Santoyo said.
“So many people were actively seeking out resources and wanting to talk about that process and what they were feeling as they were seeing those demonstrations,” Santoyo said.
Gallegos said more people coming forward about sexual assault helped her feel comfortable in reporting her own incident.
“When I saw so many people talking about it, it was easier for me to talk about because it’s like strength in numbers,” Gallegos said.