Recent news headlines have revealed Higher Education Data Sharing (HEDS) Consortium and the Center of Inquiry at Wabash College, asks students anonymously whether they've experienced sexual assault or harassment on campus, and how they feel about the school's handling of such incidents. The problem I find with this survey, is that the data is not released to the public unless a college or university gives permission. HEDS will not release the data.
Some of the schools who participate in the surveys are: Illinois Wesleyan University, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, Occidental College, the Claremont Colleges, Southwestern University, Hope College, Wagner College, Colgate University and Kenyon College. Some, like Occidental and Kenyon, have released their results, while others, like Colgate, plan to do so in the coming weeks.
While we are glad the surveys are taking place, we are frustrated that the data is not released and made available to the public. One of the most important steps institutions can take in addressing sexual violence is to model and embrace transparency. When institutions hide information about the rates of sexual violence -- no matter how reasonable is their rationale -- they may be covering up a grave problem.
Sexual assault prevention is crucial, as is how sexual assaults reported are handled. Reports of sexual assault and sexual misconduct should be handled with care, compassion, and a commitment to fair, prompt, and impartial review and resolution. Releasing survey data would go a long way in ensuring that this happens.
If you or a family member is a victim of a sexual assault, it is also a good idea to seek legal advice. Assault victims may be able to file criminal charges and bring about civil lawsuits against the assailant as well as other parties who may be responsible for the attack. Call us today at 516-222-4000 for a confidential, no cost consultation.