by Mary Margaret Olohan
The Catholic University of America’s Title IX Coordinator is offering a survey to undergraduates in an attempt to better understand the nature of sexual assaults here on the Catholic University campus. This is the second survey administered by the Title IX office; the first survey was completed in the fall of 2015.
Title IX Coordinator Frank Vinik said that the results of the previous survey were “groundbreaking” since there had never before been data on this issue at Catholic University. The first survey revealed that Catholic University experiences typical rates, types, and underreporting of sexual assaults in comparison to other universities.
“Every university wants to believe that these problems are not as serious at its campus,” Vinik said, “but we now have concrete data showing it does happen here.”
Vinik said that the survey is crucial to the future of programming at Catholic University, especially considering that the results from the 2015 survey showed gaps in student awareness of confidential resources and how to report an assault. As a result, the new student orientation in 2016 was tailored to fit these issues.
“We significantly changed freshman orientation to address these gaps,” Vinik said. “We have also provided significant training on sexual assault since the last survey and are hoping this survey will shed light on whether that training is having an effect. If not, we will need to explore new approaches.”
Vinik, who received his juris doctorate at the University of Virginia, has served as the coordinator for Title IX for the past two years at Catholic University and previously spent twenty years dealing with sexual assault and sexual harassment on college campuses.
According to Vinik, the 2015 survey has prompted significant change in Catholic University students’ attitudes towards this issue. “Student protests are very rare on this issue or any other issues,” said Vinik. “However, the lack of protests does not mean that students at CUA are not engaged.”
Students at the Catholic University of America also take initiative to promote awareness and prevention of sexual assault such as the organization Peer Educators Inspiring Respectful Students, a group led by Dean Stephanie Davey.
While freshmen are a particular focus of the goals of the Title IX office, Vinik hopes to expand prevention programming beyond freshman year, as well as to “understand the dynamics of sexual assault in study abroad programs” and “expand training on sexual violence prevention to every employee of CUA.”
Similarly, Vinik has noticed better support services for victims that include twenty-four hour access to counselors and sexual assault survivor support groups, as well as the attention of top university administrators.
In order to better target the goals of the Title IX office, another survey is being administered this year. As incentives, the Title IX office is offering multiple prizes that range from Nationals tickets to a $100 giftcard to Bus Boys and Poets.
“We need as many students as possible to take the survey so that we can obtain an accurate picture of the campus climate,” Vinik said. “Hopefully the results will show improvement over the last survey. If not, the university will need to explore new approaches so that we can make progress on this important issue.”
The survey regarding the campus climate of sexual assault and sexual violence has been emailed to students.