Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current

Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Department

Department of Health Sciences

Advisor(s)

Katherine Ott-Walter

Matthew Ezzell

Audrey Burnett

Abstract

Background: The widely published statistic of 1 in 5 represents the number of women on college campuses who have been sexually assaulted (White House Office of the Press Secretary, 2014). Many colleges and universities have been attempting to address the sensitive topic of sexual assault for quite some time; however, sexual violence still remains prevalent on campuses throughout the United States (Allen, Ridgeway, & Swan, 2015). Many of the roadblocks an institution faces in its efforts may stem from a lack of understanding of the true nature of student attitudes surrounding the topic of sexual assault. The specific needs of community members, such as student knowledge on reporting policies, attitudes towards prevention, knowledge of existing survivor resources, and perception of community attitudes, must be understood and examined in order to improve campus response in terms of prevention, resources, and support (The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, 2014). Therefore, it is the aim of this study to assess students’ existing knowledge of policies and procedures at JMU. Additionally, this study aims to identify resources and individuals, whether they be peers, professors, law enforcement, and the like, which students feel most inclined to turn in the aftermath of a sexual assault, as well as to understand why they feel as such.

Methods: A total of 13 focus groups were held, each consisting of 5-11 Health Science major students at James Madison University (JMU). Semi-structured questions were posed as prompts during a facilitated discussion during focus group meetings. With participant consent, the in-person group meetings were recorded utilizing a digital recorder. The recorded data research file was then encrypted and transcribed by the researcher post meeting.

Results: Overall, students were able to identify sexual assault survivor resources available at JMU; however, unless students were part of residence life, they did not seem to know very much about the services they actually provide. A call for advertisement and increased visibility of reactive resources was made evident as many of the identified qualities desired in an ideal survivor resource could be found in already existing resources available on campus. Additionally, students indicated a desire for the prevention program Dukes Step Up to be more comprehensive and take on a more serious tone, as well as the desire for a follow up continued education prevention program. Participants showed high interest in meeting with administration to gain knowledge about their strides towards combating sexual violence.

 
 

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