The University of Hawaiʻi released the results of a groundbreaking climate survey of students on sexual harassment and gender-based violence. Nationally it is one of the first known surveys of college students to explore intimate partner violence and is the first known survey of students in a university system that includes both four- and two-year degree campuses. Another important element that makes the survey unique and comprehensive is that it asked students about their experiences both on and off campus.
More than 6,300 students, or 14.1 percent of UH’s approximately 44,000 adult students participated. The 261-page survey report provides data on each of the 10 UH campuses. The survey consisted of 125 questions that covered four areas: prevalence of sexual harassment and gender-based violence, student assessment of the university’s response, student perceptions of campus safety and student awareness of policies, processes and programs.
“This survey is the latest step we have taken to further our commitment to ensure safe and respectful campus environments,” said UH President David Lassner. “The majority of students who participated said they felt the survey was valuable for developing campus policies, which is helpful because students’ continued engagement is critical. Together with the findings, student feedback will help UH determine where to dedicate our resources and efforts moving forward.”
Students feel safe
The survey showed that a vast majority of students generally felt safe and did not see themselves as being at personal risk either on campus or at off-campus UH sponsored events. When asked about the likelihood of experiencing sexual harassment or assault in those environments, 85.3 percent said they felt the likelihood was “little” or “not at all.”
Large majorities of survey participants who contacted UH resources after experiencing sexual harassment or gender-based violence saw their interaction as “very” and “extremely” useful. For instance, when participants were asked about the most-recent interactions with campus resources after they had experienced sexual harassment, 95.8 percent of those interactions were rated as either very or extremely useful in helping the participant deal with the experience. Among all participants, there was a confidence that if they needed to contact campus officials, they would be treated with respect and their privacy and safety would be protected.
Intimate partner violence among key findings
One of the key findings is the impact of intimate partner violence (IPV), also known as dating or domestic violence, with 19.1 percent of the participants who were in a partnered relationship at anytime while enrolled at UH reported experiencing IPV. Additionally, 10 percent say they experienced stalking or sexual harassment and 6.3 percent reported nonconsensual sexual contact. Thirty one percent of those who responded report having experienced at least one incident of IPV, stalking, sexual harassment and/or nonconsensual sexual contact, on and off campus, while enrolled as a UH student.
“We aren’t surprised by prevalence and incidence rate of domestic violence in the UH survey,” said Nanci Kreidman, Domestic Violence Action Center CEO. “They reflect a larger societal problem. These numbers track the community and global statistics and UH doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The incidence rates also track what we know for women aged 18–24.”
Lassner sent a message to students announcing the survey results and encouraged all victims to seek help and to utilize services available.
“The message that we will continue to repeat to our students is that help is available,” said Jennifer Rose, director of the UH Office of Institutional Equity, which is responsible for the survey. “If you are a victim of sexual harassment or gender violence, campus services are here for you and community resources are readily available.”
Rose also stressed that someone who witnesses or knows someone experiencing harassment or violence, can also access the available services.
“Ultimately, we want students to feel safe in coming forward—whether to utilize confidential resources or to make a report,” said Rose. “Everyone has a part to play in making our campuses free from sex discrimination—that includes trained campus staff and relevant community partners.”
Each campus and the UH System are now reviewing the results and will develop action plans that will be implemented in 2018. The results will also be used to establish a baseline with the next survey scheduled in 2019.
The data will be used to assess the university’s progress and to guide policy, training and initiatives to meet the university’s obligations under the Violence Against Women Act and Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sexual discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal funding.
The survey was conducted by OmniTrak Group Inc. from January 20 to February 20, 2017, with consultation from nationally-renowned subject matter experts Professor Sandra L. Martin and Professor Bonnie S. Fisher who consulted on the Association of American Universities 2015 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. Considered a national best practice, the climate survey was one of the many steps identified and pursued by the university to strengthen its Title IX response and support services. It received widespread support from state lawmakers and was mandated by the legislature through Act 208 in 2016.
The survey cost $173,824.00 was paid for with general funds appropriated by the legislature for the UH Office of Institutional Equity.
Letter from President Lassner
Student survey results on sexual harassment and intimate partner violence
Aloha to all our UH students, and welcome (back) to campus!
In spring 2017, more than 6,300 of our 44,000 students from the 10 UH campuses, participated in a survey that asked about experiences with sexual harassment and gender-based violence on and off campus. While this was not connected to the #metoo movement, completion of the analysis is particularly timely now. I encourage everyone to take the time to review the results as they provide insight into issues that may have either impacted you directly, or someone you know.
The survey results will be used by the individual campuses to form action plans that address the identified needs. Importantly, these results will also provide a baseline for assessing the university’s progress with follow-up surveys scheduled every two years.
One thing that stood out in the inaugural survey is the prevalence of intimate partner violence, also known as dating or domestic violence: 19.1 percent of respondents who were in a partnered relationship at anytime while enrolled at UH reported experiencing intimate partner violence.
If you are a victim of intimate partner violence or any other type of sexual harassment or gender-based violence, please know that the following help is available, including on a confidential basis.
UH System Title IX and Office of Institutional Equity Website
Campus Title IX Coordinators
UH is committed to ensuring safe and respectful campus environments. Students as well as our entire community have important roles to play by being aware of the issues, watching out for one another and reporting violations. I encourage everyone, if you have not already, to take the free, online Title IX training for students.
Training for employees is available at:
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.
Please enjoy a safe and successful academic year!