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Research provides insight into sexual assault prevention

By Ashtyn Asay - | Aug 25, 2022

Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo

Students walk around the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020.

As college students enter into the “red zone,” It’s On Us has released data that it hopes will provide important insight into how male students can help prevent sexual assault.

The “red zone” refers to the period of time at universities between the start of the school year and Thanksgiving break, when new students are most vulnerable to sexual assault. According to a 2016 study done by the Bureau of Justice Statistics Research and Development Series, close to 70% of on-campus sexual assaults will occur during this time.

In Utah County, new college students have already entered the time where they will be most at risk of sexual assaulted in the entirety of their college career. Classes at Utah Valley University commenced last Monday and will begin at Brigham Young University on Monday, Aug. 29.

A new study entitled “It’s On Us Engaging Men: National Camus Sexual Assault Attitudes and Behaviors Research Report” explores how to most effectively engage male students in sexual assault prevention, and how colleges and universities can build more effective sexual assault prevention programs.

“In doing our work day-to-day we did notice a gap in research in particular,” said Silvia Zenteno, director of educational programs and training at It’s On Us, and study co-author. “No major study had previously been completed to evaluate what sexual assault prevention programs are in place at colleges and universities nationwide, the level of participation in existing prevention programs, attitudes towards those programs, and students attitudes and actions following their participation in prevention programming.”

It’s On Us is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing college sexual assault and providing support to survivors. The organization’s mission is to engage all students, including young men, in sexual assault prevention through awareness and prevention education programs.

It’s On Us currently has chapters at 275 college campuses in the U.S., including at the University of Utah, Weber State University, and Utah State University.

The study, which was conducted in partnership with consulting and insights firm HauckEye, found the following:

“Men aren’t concerned about the problem: The young men who participated generally are not aware of the extent of sexual violence on campus, often viewing it as a problem limited to Greek life that does not affect them or their school as a whole.

“Current trainings are inadequate: Participants tend to find current trainings, particularly online-only trainings, boring and ineffective. More positive experiences are in-person and use creative training methods, such as engaging, relatable speakers and interactive components like a certificate.

“Men need non-male friends and role models: Strong relationships with non-male friends and role models have a big impact on male-identifying students’ awareness of campus sexual assault and their willingness to become involved and intervene in situations of gender-based violence.

“Men don’t know how to help: The majority of college men would like to have a bigger role in sexual assault prevention and expressed a desire to help, but they do not feel they are prepared with the right tools to intervene.”

These findings came from a series of 20 online, 60-minute Zoom interviews with young men from different college settings, including UVU and BYU. Participants were asked about their experiences, attitudes and behaviors regarding sexual violence at their school.

Researchers found that conversations around sex and consent happened less often at religious universities such as BYU, but that those attending religious universities may face stricter consequences for breaking university policies.

“We believe in not having premarital sex at all…” said a BYU student who was surveyed. “If its already bad to have sex in a relationship where you’re not married than its even worse if its non-consensual, so there’s a really strong response there.”

In the future, It’s On Us intends to build on this research and conduct a large-scale quantitative survey.

According to BYU’s 2022 report on the campus sexual climate, only 42% of surveyed students say BYU is doing a good job of educating students about sexual assault.

When given the prompt “I believe there is a clear sense of appropriate and inappropriate behavior among students at BYU,” 58% of students who have experienced unwanted sexual contact agreed while 77% of students who have not experienced unwanted sexual contact agreed. Asked the same question, only 48% of LGBTQ students agreed with the prompt compared to 78% of straight students.

In addition to the on-campus attitudes and education, 7.4% of female students and 1.5% of male students reported unwanted sexual contact in the past 12 months while enrolled at and attending BYU.

More information on It’s On Us, along with sexual assault prevention or survivor resources, can be found at https://itsonus.org/.


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