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UNB researchers release findings of Sexual Assault Climate Survey

Author: Communications

Posted on Jan 19, 2017

Category: UNB Fredericton

Researchers at the University of New Brunswick have released results of the UNB Sexual Assault Climate Survey that will give the university a better understanding of both attitudes towards and experiences of sexual violence among students at UNB Fredericton.

The survey, developed by Dr. Rice Fuller, Dr. Lucia O’Sullivan and PhD graduate student Charlene Belu, was launched in the fall of 2015 and more than 1,200 students completed it. The survey showed 21 per cent per cent of students who were surveyed reported they had been sexually assaulted since becoming a student at UNB Fredericton. According to the researchers, the rates of sexual assault at UNB reported in the survey are consistent with the findings of earlier surveys conducted at other universities in Canada and the United States, including the results released earlier this week by Francophone universities in Québec.

Further, 34 per cent of those surveyed reported that they had experienced some type of nonconsensual sexual activity before coming to UNB.

Dr. Fuller, senior director of health and wellness for UNB, says that, based on past research conducted on this topic, we already know that sexual assault is all too common among college and university populations with similar rates to what was found in this study.

“Too much of the emphasis in media stories about campus sexual assault over the past two years has been on rates of sexual assaults reported to university authorities,” said Dr. Fuller. “It is common knowledge that the number of sexual assaults reported to authorities such as campus security, police, or others, represents a tiny fraction of the actual number of sexual assaults that occur. These results provide us with a clear picture of the current situation on our campus and how we can best address it.”

The findings show that most students feel safe on campus, but more than half (53%) reported that they would not know how to get help from the university if they were sexually assaulted.

The results also show that many students endorse one or more myths about sexual assault (e.g. “Rape accusations are often used as a way of getting back at men”). Researchers say interventions designed to correct rape myths can help change these attitudes.

Dr. George MacLean, UNB Vice-President Academic (Fredericton), said that the report provides UNB with detailed data that will help UNB become a leader in supporting and educating students on the topic. “We’re confident of the work that’s been done to provide a safe, positive environment for our students; however, this survey shows us that we still have work to do,” said MacLean.

Despite decades of research, public health interventions, and increased public and professional awareness, there has been little change in the rates of sexual assault among young people, said Dr. O’Sullivan.

“The university has a real opportunity now that it is armed with a better understanding of student attitudes toward sexual assault, student access to services and resources, students’ understanding of policies, procedures, and resources regarding sexual assault, as well as their perceptions of how well UNB responds to incidents of sexual assault,” said Dr. O’Sullivan.

Drs. Fuller and O’Sullivan say the results of the study will help identify targets for education and awareness campaigns about consent, rape myths about sexual assault, and available services.

The results also will help to identify groups that are at higher risk of experiencing sexual assault and/or perpetrating sexual assault and to inform targeted interventions for these groups. These results will provide baseline data against which to compare UNB’s efforts to prevent sexual assault and to better respond to sexual assaults when they occur.

UNB released its sexual assault policy and procedures in the spring of 2016 and in the fall of 2016 hired a Campus Sexual Assault Support Advocate for each of its campuses to serve as a dedicated resource to the issue of sexual violence.

Dr. Fuller said it would not be possible to conduct such research without the backing and support of a number of people on campus. In particular, we would like to thank UNB President Eddy Campbell, UNB Board of Governors Chair Brian Baxter along with several other current and retired senior leaders who stood behind this effort including Dr. MacLean, Dr. Jane Fritz, Dr. Shirley Cleave and Mark Walma. In addition, we would like to thank the Fredericton Sexual Assault Centre, the UNB Student Union, and the staff of The Brunswickan for their support of this project.”

Media contact: Natasha Ashfield