On Campus
Sep 09, 2015, 10:24AM

The University of Baltimore Isn't Taking Sexual Assault Seriously

Learning about sexual assault shouldn’t be “fun.”

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This past year, a sexual assault took place inside one of the parking garages at the University of Baltimore. A broadcast email was sent out to students, alerting them to what transpired as well as the UB police department’s contact information. Included in the email were links to “helpful” pages that discussed personal safety tips and an invitation to sign up for the campus-wide text alerts, and a link to the universities title IX and non-discrimination laws. Another email was sent that had a list of numbers you could call; some affiliated with the university, some not.

Over the summer, another sexual assault took place off campus but still within range to warrant sending out another broadcast email to students. It wasn’t as detailed as the previous one, but was the same gist. All students are now required to take an online tutorial about sexual assault and relationships through an application called Haven. Haven “addresses critical issues facing students in a practical, personal, and fun way.” If you complete the survey by October 31st, you’re entered to win a Kindle Fire HD.

I hate how this is worded, and the language used to advertise the survey is disrespectful. Learning about sexual assault shouldn’t be “fun.” You shouldn’t reward students for completing a survey about a deeply serious emotional issue. That’s cheap and lessens the importance of educating the public. There shouldn't be an incentive to finish this survey. You should take it in order to become better educated and more aware.

Educating the public on sexual violence makes sense. However, I have a problem with how my University thinks their students should be educated about it. It’s not strictly stated that the survey is mandatory, but I didn’t know this was available until an email was sent to me. I appreciate and understand what the University of Baltimore is trying to accomplish, but this isn’t the best way to go about it.

I took the 40-minute survey and found it to be potentially triggering to survivors of sexual violence. Although the questions challenge you to think and are fairly informative, they’re incredibly personal. A warning would’ve been helpful. Even though the survey is about sexual assault/relationship abuse, I wasn’t expecting to see these kinds of questions.

I had friends read over the description of Haven. They had the same reaction as me. Am I over-reacting? Maybe. Survivors of sexual assault deserve better than this survey. Language is a powerful tool, and it’s failed in this case. We need better education than an online survey that’ll go unnoticed by students, regardless of whether or not it’s mandatory. 

—Follow Emma Kidwell on Twitter: @EmmaKidwell

  • What specifically was offensive/triggering about the survey? How would you have worded it so as not to be triggering/offensive?

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  • Probably she would have eliminated the word "fun," as she explained.

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  • Rabelais, "fun" was used to describe how Haven addresses critical issues. My question was about the actual survey. So my question stands. Once again, please try to comprehend my comments before criticizing.

  • My feelings as well, Texan. Actually, what really doesn't sound like "fun" is being required to fill out a survey. And really, we're not talking about middle-schoolers here, but young adults. I'm sorry, Emma, but this "triggering" has gone way overboard. People have to use common sense.

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  • The more easily you claim to be triggered, the more status you have. Besides, just the word causes the adults to jump around like puppets. Great fun.

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  • I am a student at UB and did the program. It was blunt, and involved taking a survey (twice) that asked explicit questions about whether I had been sexually assaulted, in order to collect statistics. That struck me as particularly cold. Triggers should be dealt with in therapy or free services offered by the school/community centers. Many efforts are being made to combat sexual violence, and it hasn't been perfected, but survivors of sexual violence will see the word "rape" a lot. Words conjure emotions, it's not fun, but it's life. I didn't like Haven either, and it made me disappointed in the state of our school, and colleges in general- that efforts like this have to be made. However, most schools don't even try. Chances are, this informed a lot of people. If it set a few off, hopefully that inspired them to seek professional help.

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  • Emma you are correct that survivors of sexual assault deserve better than this survey and the marketing efforts around it. Your tactfulness and calm tone in this article also deserve better than the insensitivity of some of these comments. Unfortunately the word "trigger" has taken on a negative or exaggerative connotation to everyone for whom it doesn't actually have meaning because they've experienced sexual violence.

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  • Which comments are insensitive Mary? Why would someone have to experience sexual violence in order to understand the term "trigger"? It is actually a relatively old term used for many psychological issues from addiction to anxiety to PTSD of all sorts including, but not limited to, those who experienced sexual violence. Furthermore, one can not trigger someone else since it, "the trigger", is a creation of the mind of the afflicted individual and is therefore specific and different for each individual.

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  • marymac. The old use of "trigger" wasn't restricted to sexual violence. As another commenter noted, it frequently applied to combat veterans, or civilians who've lived in a war zone. I recently attended the ninth funeral I've been to including military honors. First was my brother. My father was recent, and a relative last month. "Taps" is a trigger. Difference now is...claiming "trigger" is supposed to be a claim on another's behavior or on public policy. Big, big difference.

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  • I was raped twice as a child. It didn't really affect me that much. I had worse things to worry about.

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