Thursday, September 30, 2021

Through its latest comprehensive anti-violence plan, the University of Iowa continues to enhance efforts to combat sexual misconduct (sexual harassment, technology-facilitated harassment, stalking, dating violence, and sexual violence) on our campus. The 2021–2024 Anti-Violence Plan was informed by results from the 2021 Speak Out Iowa survey.

The 2021 survey marked the third time that the Speak Out Iowa survey was administered to all UI degree-seeking undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. The first was in 2015 and the second in 2017.

A campus briefing to discuss the 2021 Speak Out Iowa survey findings and action steps will take place at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 1, via Zoom.

The campus Anti-Violence Coalition collaborated with stakeholders to update the Anti-Violence Plan, which outlines prevention, education, intervention, and policy strategies to respond to sexual misconduct. The plan is part of the UI’s commitment to provide support and trauma-informed care to survivors, implement a fair and equitable resolution process, and hold UI community members accountable for harm created.

“The results of the Speak Out Iowa survey provide us with tremendous insight that we use to create plans and policies that support our community. We are always gathering student feedback, which helped shape this year’s additions to the survey. This approach allows us to focus on specific, emerging issues and address them head-on,” says Sarah Hansen, vice president for student life.

New survey questions provide important data about students’ experiences with technology-facilitated harassment, the ways sexual misconduct impedes academic progress, and how students negotiate consent.

Among the new key findings of the survey were:

  • Students—women and transgender/gender non-conforming students specifically—report frequent experiences of digital, digital sexual, and gender-based harassment, and most of this harassment occurs via social media.
  • Students who experienced dating violence and sexual violence reported significant adverse impacts to their short-term (missed class, failed an assignment or exam) and long-term (dropped or failed a class, thought about quitting school) academic progress, grade-point average (GPA), financial costs, and time to degree.
  • While students reported high levels of confidence in negotiating consent with a new or current partner and did not perceive that asking for affirmative consent was awkward, many students were still using nonverbal signals and body language to communicate consent. Fewer than half of students said they always ask for verbal consent before initiating a sexual encounter.

The plan includes strategies to address this new information on technology-facilitated harassment by raising awareness through social media and providing tools for students, faculty, and staff on engaging in respectful dialogues in online environments.

While many resources already exist to support students academically, the findings highlight the specific impact of sexual misconduct on students’ educational pursuits. The 2021–2024 Anti-Violence Plan will improve academic supports with strategies to increase knowledge of reporting and support options and how to access academic supports and accommodations.

The 2021–2024 Anti-Violence Plan includes multiple strategies to build students’ skills via educational videos and informational graphics around negotiating relationships, sexual contact, and ways to practice consent skills. A reboot of the Green Flag Campaign will help students identify positive relationship behaviors.

In addition to the strategies above, action items build on existing programs, policies, and resources to:

  • Engage all students, faculty, and staff in ongoing prevention and education efforts that create a safe and respectful environment;
  • Fairly and equitably develop, integrate, and evaluate inclusive, trauma-informed, person-centered interventions for those affected by sexual misconduct, dating violence, and stalking; and
  • Consistently review and revise policies to ensure they are clear, fair, and effective at addressing harm, holding offenders accountable, and keeping the campus community safe.

“The 2021–2024 Anti-Violence Plan is a shared commitment to create a safe, inclusive, and welcoming community for our students, faculty, and staff. If we want to be a world-renowned institution rooted in academic quality, then we must use our collective effort to eliminate sexual violence and harassment,” says Monique DiCarlo, Title IX coordinator and chair of the Anti-Violence Coalition.