UH survey finds abuse ‘everywhere’
A college survey finds large numbers of cases, though few students actually reported them
About 1 in 10 women attending the University of Hawaii at Hilo was sexually abused during their college years while more than 1 in 5 women at nearby Hawaii Community College was a victim of domestic violence.
The findings are included in the first Student Survey on Sexual and Relationship Violence that found unreported abuse on all 10 University of Hawaii campuses statewide. The survey, obtained by the Associated Press, is to be released tomorrow.
About 2,000 students responded to the survey commissioned by university President David McClain in collaboration with the UH Commission on the Status of Women. Students were asked about incidents occurring on and off campus during their years at the school.
"The survey shows sexual and relationship violence is a problem everywhere in our state," McClain said in an interview. "The intensity of the problem varies by campus, but it's clearly an issue everywhere."
Christine Quemuel, who supervised the study, said with the new data, administrators now have a benchmark to help determine the effectiveness of new initiatives and programs.
The study will be conducted every three years. Before the survey, the university relied on national studies, which gathered statistics of reported crimes only, while most abuse goes unreported.
"Now we have this unique snapshot of what's happening at all of our UH campuses," said Quemuel, director of the Women's Center at Manoa.
The survey was conducted in various classrooms and the responses were given anonymously.
The two Big Island campuses had the highest ratio of partner violence, rapes and sexual abuse.
Keith Miser, vice chancellor for student affairs at UH-Hilo, said he was uncertain why the numbers were higher on his campus. But he wasn't surprised by the figures because he has worked with students for years and heard their stories.
"I was disappointed, hoping our numbers would not be as high as the survey reported," he said.
Miser said his school implemented several security improvements in the past few years, including updated call boxes, improved lighting and increased patrols. The campus is also purchasing security cameras.
As in the case of the other islands, most of the incidents involving students on the Big Island occurred off campus.
Quemuel said that in the vast majority of cases, victims knew their attackers.
"There is an overarching myth in our society in general that it's a stranger in the bushes," Quemuel said. "The reality is that it's going to be your neighbor, a family member, a friend, another student you studied with."
The survey found that few students actually report incidents to police, campus security or faculty. For example, of the eight Manoa women who said they were raped, only two filed reports.
McClain said the results show a need for increased awareness, particularly among young women. McClain is a father of three daughters, one of whom attends graduate school at Manoa.
"I talk to her a lot about what goes on in her life," he said. "As a parent, I can tell you this is an issue in the community. This is going on and it needs to stop."
The Manoa campus recently experienced a sexual assault that unnerved students and parents. A day before the semester started, a woman reported she was sexually assaulted inside her freshman dorm room by an intruder who entered through an unlocked door.
The attack occurred despite beefed up security at the school in recent years.
McClain in 2005 required all campuses to spend 5 percent of new moneys for safety improvements.
"We have an obligation and we have some hope we can make some change here," he said.
There are 50,000 students in the system, with 20,000 at the flagship Manoa campus and 26,000 in community colleges. Students at nine campuses were surveyed in the spring of 2006, while the Manoa survey was conducted in fall 2003.
McClain has discussed the survey with all 10 chancellors. Each campus leader, along with their communities, will determine what needs to be done and if more resources are needed.
McClain said he hopes the survey will raise awareness and encourage more victims to come forward.
"The more light you shine on this issue, the more you find that people are willing to start reporting," he said.
Attacks on UH campuses
Among the findings from the first University of Hawaii Student Survey on Sexual and Relationship Violence:
» At UH Manoa, about 10 percent of women and 2 percent of men reported being sexually abused, which the study generally defined as unwanted touching of a sexual nature. Nearly 2 percent of the women surveyed, 8 of 444, reported they were raped during their years at the school.
» At Maui Community College, nearly 12 percent of women reported experiencing verbal or physical abuse from a partner.
» At Leeward Community College, about 14 percent of women reported experiencing partner violence.
» Kauai Community College was the only campus where none of the respondents reported being raped or sexually assaulted. However, the campus had the smallest sample size at 43.
» At Kapiolani Community College, 8 percent of women indicated being sexually assaulted. Most of those victims said they were sexually abused more than once.
» At Honolulu Community College, 14 percent of female respondents reported experiencing violence and nearly 6 percent reported being sexually abused.
» At UH Hilo, 14 percent of the 164 women surveyed said they were sexually assaulted. More than 5 percent reported being raped and 20 percent experienced violence. About 14 percent of men also indicated they were victims of domestic violence.
» At Hawaii Community College, more than 6 percent of women reported they were raped and 5 percent indicated they were sexually abused.
Source: Associated Press