VCU, SAVES survey will address sexual assault

Matt Leonard
Online Content Editor

Beginning next week, a student organization will administer a campus climate survey in conjunction with the Wellness Resource Center to gauge how VCU students are affected by sexual assault, how to prevent it and how to respond when it does occur.

Sexual Assault and Violence Education by Students (SAVES) will begin administering the survey on Feb. 1

Katherine Vatalaro Hill, associate director at VCU’s Wellness Resource Center, said that 5,000 students will be randomly selected to participate, and will have up to three weeks to complete the online survey. Participants have the chance to win an Xbox One, one of eight $50 Amazon gift cards or a VCU T-shirt.

The survey is based on a similar study conducted at North Carolina State University. University of Richmond and VCU received a federal grant of $499,000, which they used to create the Campus Alliance Against Violence.

Some of this grant money will be used to administer the survey on both campuses. The University of Richmond completed their survey last semester, but results have not been released.

“We already know what the national trends are,” Hill said. “But we want a better picture of what’s happening at VCU.”

Abigail Conley, a counselor of education at VCU, created the survey and will help administer it to students.

Conley said the anonymous survey will ask people about their sexual experiences with contextual questions to figure out how often sexual assaults occur at VCU.

After the survey period is over, Conley and an assessment committee will review the results.

“There will be policy changes based on what our results are,” she said.

When a report released by the White House found that one in five women were sexually assaulted in college, the topic started to become a staple issue on legislative and university agendas.

Conley said she thinks that VCU was “ahead of the curve” with making changes to its sexual assault protocol. Conducting a campus-wide survey and having students take a class on sexual assault recently became required for universities, but VCU had bugun planning for both of these before it was mandatory. Now, other state  schools are reaching out to VCU to use the survey as a model.

Furthermore, Hill said that stories like the one published by Rolling Stone, although later discredited and retracted, are responsible for helping more victims to feel they can come forward when affected by sexual violence.

Hill added that “efforts were ramped up” to stem this problem “way before the Rolling Stone article,” however.

In January, a VCU Commonwealth education poll showed that 92 percent of Virginians wanted universities to be required to report sexual assaults to police.

“Sexual assault on campus is such a complex issue,” Hill said in response to those figures. “I think people don’t understand the complexities of it.”

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