Last week, the University of Maine announced that students would participate in a new sexual misconduct and domestic abuse survey in February. The announcement of the University of Maine Campus Climate Survey came in the form of an email from Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Robert Dana and President Joan Ferrini-Mundy on Feb. 4.
“Sexual harassment and sexual assault are critically important issues at colleges and universities across the country, including here at the University of Maine,” Dana said. “The impact of these behaviors is destructive and corrosive to a sense of safety and community, and must be comprehensively addressed to effectively combat this sort of behavior. To this end it is important that we know how students on campus are impacted by sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, and stalking.”
In his email, Dana cited statistics saying that as much as 25 percent of college students experience “unwanted sexual contact,” 18 percent of students are victims of dating violence or domestic abuse and, nationally, only 25 percent of cases of sexual assault on campuses are reported.
Dana did not provide a source for these statistics in his email, but similar numbers are offered by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. According to statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, one in five women in college experience sexual assault.
UMaine’s Title IX Office offers support for students in three areas, according to the its website: “Providing support around the areas of sexual violence, relationship abuse, and stalking; Can help answer questions and concerns; Offering resources and referrals on interpersonal violence.”
Elizabeth Lavoie is the director of the Title IX office on campus. She said that the results of the survey will be used to help policy makers identify key areas of programming, prevention, awareness and response efforts.
“In my experience, I have seen our number of gender discrimination reports grow,” Lavoie said. “However, I do not feel that it happens more frequently on our campus. rather we do a good job of making students aware of services and supports.”
Lavoie cited UMaine students’ plethora of resources — including the Counseling Center, Rape Response Services and Partners for Peace — as helpful supports for victims of sexual assault, dating violence and domestic abuse.
This survey is the most recent step in the process of updating UMaine administration’s awareness of sexual and dating abuse incidents, many of which go unreported.
“[We] have conducted a climate survey for the last few years, the most recent one being conducted in Spring 2018,” Lavoie said. “We have worked hard to engage and understand what our students are experiencing and what we can do to better serve them. We constantly continue those efforts through programming, staff and student trainings and by utilizing best practices. However, doing climate surveys help us really understand what we can do as, an institution and as community leaders, to continue doing better for our students.”
Dana said that the survey, which will be anonymous, will provide administrators with key information in three areas: “prevention, reporting and support.”
Students can contact the Title IX Office at (207) 581-1406. Members of the community can also contact UMaine’s Counseling Center at (207) 581-1392, Rape Response Services at (207) 973-3651 or the Partners for Peace hotline at (800) 863-9909.