Report: Gender-based violence on UH campuses

Image by Kala Lindsey

Approximately 19 percent of UH students have been exposed to intimate partner violence, according to a report released last month by the University of Hawai‘i Office of Institutional Equity.

During spring 2017, approximately 6,300 students across all 10 UH campuses completed a survey asking if during their enrollment at UH they had been exposed to any of these four types of violence:  sexual harassment, stalking, domestic and dating violence (also known as intimate partner violence), and nonconsensual sexual conduct.

The survey was not connected to the #MeToo movement, but the results are timely. The survey was done to help individual campuses form action plans that address and identify needs. Follow-up surveys will be conducted every two years.

The survey found that intimate partner violence was the most common form of abuse.

Other results of the study include:

9.3 percent reported experiencing sexual harassment both on and off campus, of which 33.9 percent said the offender was UH faculty or staff and 81.2 percent said the offender was another UH student. The most common forms of sexual harassment were sexual remarks or insulting/offensive jokes or stories, and inappropriate comments regarding body, appearance or sexual activity.

9.7 percent reported being a victim of stalking, of which 68.4 percent said that the offender was another UH student. Stalking is defined as any unwanted advances by someone, including but not limited to phone calls, following, emails, or any unwanted contact that makes the victim feel threatened.

6.3 percent reported nonconsensual sexual contact. This definition includes all forms of nonconsensual sexual contact such as touching, whereas rape has a very specific definition where penetration takes place.

The survey found that higher rates of the four forms of violence were experienced by female undergraduates, Native Hawaiian students, LGBTQ, students with disabilities, students living on campus and students on four-year campuses.

These findings were similar to national campus surveys, with the exception of Native Hawaiians for whom there is no comparable national data.

In an email to the UH community reporting the results of the study, UH president David Lassner wrote: ”We have made significant strides in addressing these issues over the past several years, but our goal is campus life free of sexual harassment and gender-based violence, and we have even more to do.”

While WCC student Honey Perez had not participated in the study, she was interested in the results.

“I think it is important to know about this stuff, so we can stay safer when at school,” Perez said.

Others agreed. Across all ten campuses, nearly 95 percent of participants said that the survey was valuable in developing policies around sexual harassment and gender-based violence at UH.

Last September, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rescinded the Obama administration’s 2011 guidelines on schools’ responsibilities under Title IX. According to an article by federal policy reporter Andrew Kreighbaum in Inside Higher Education, the changes may undermine the credibility of someone reporting an assault, making it much more difficult to come forward.

Three public interest law groups–The Victims Rights Law Center, The Equal Rights Advocates, and Surv Justice–filed a lawsuit on Jan. 25 in reaction to the changes.

“We will not accept Secretary DeVos making it harder for survivors to have equal access to education,” said Laura L Dunn, executive director of Surv Justice.

Last October, state Senator Kaiali’i Kahele, state Senator Stanley Chang and state Rep. Angus McKelvey visited WCC as part of a higher education tour of UH campuses. When asked about the changes made by DeVos, they said that they intend to do everything they can at the state level to ensure the safety of every UH student and to protect the rights of students coming forward to report an assault.

WCC has also formed a task force to address the specific needs of its students.

“Targeted activities will be implemented and tracked,” said vice chancellor for student affairs Amy Rozek. “We then hope to use this information to support best practices in UH policy, procedure and programming.”


by Cynthia Lee Sinclair, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter