By: Erica Lampert ~Staff Writer~
Nationally, gender-based violence is severely underreported due to pervasive victim blaming, social stigmas, widespread misinformation and a lack of understanding of what constitutes gender-based violence and how it should be reported. Student reporting of gender-based violence on Xavier’s campus, however, continues to increase.
The increase in reporting is due in part to the quality of services provided, and during the 2015-2016 academic year, Xavier received twice as many reports of acquaintance rape compared to the previous year.
“This increase in reports means that Xavier students, faculty and staff are increasing their knowledge of these issues and are rejecting victim blame and social stigma,” Chief Title IX Officer Kate Lawson said. “It means that the way we are engaging with each other about this issue, in dialogue and in action, is breaking down barriers to reporting.”
To continue this increase of reporting from students, Title IX and Women Helping Women (WHW) are expanding their partnership to include more than their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
Currently, students have access to after hour and weekend advocacy services with WHW. However, students will have opportunities to meet with WHW advocates on campus two days a week starting this spring.
“As anticipated and hoped, tracking with this increase in reporting, since we established a full-time confidential staff advocate position last fall, more and more students are seeking advocacy and support services,” Lawson said. “Our hope in expanding the partnership with WHW is to continue to strengthen these services for Xavier students.”
WHW provides advocacy and support services for individuals experiencing sexual assault, intimate partner violence and stalking.
Some of their services include a 24-hour crisis hotline, hospital accompaniment, law enforcement, court advocacy, support groups and individual and group counseling.
“We know that prioritizing students access to confidential, comprehensive support and advocacy, through on-campus advocacy and community- based advocacy like WHW, allows them to understand their options in a safe space, make informed decisions and ultimately increases the likelihood that they will report to university officials or law enforcement and access the resources that they identify are best for them in their recovery,” Lawson said.
In addition to the WHW expansion, there are a number of other programs students can become involved with to prevent gender-based violence on campus.
Currently, SGA, faculty and several staff members have collaborated to implement their gender-based violence prevention education program called It’s on X, which is rooted in the evidence- based bystander engagement approach.
“There are many facets of Xavier’s gender-based violence prevention and response systems, all designed to engage students from the moment they connect with Xavier,” Lawson said. “Xavier’s prevention and response systems are specifically designed to and are bringing down the barriers for students to seek help, report, and ultimately stabilize their educational paths.”