The University of Hawaiʻi’s latest Student Campus Climate Report on Sexual Harassment and Gender Violence released in February of this year reveals that rates of sexual harassment, intimate-partner violence, stalking and non-consensual sexual contact have increased within the past two years.
The highest rise is in sexual harassment and intimate-partner violence.
According to the survey, both rates show that student experiences significantly increased. The results are based on student responses on experiences they had during the time of their enrollment at UH whether it was on or off campus.
Title IX is a civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination on campuses and was created in 1972. Since then, universities across the nation have established awareness programs and Title IX offices. There are now more resources for students than ever before, yet universities like UH see rising numbers.
Students who are experiencing these circumstances, but want their information confidential, are highly encouraged to speak to on-campus counselors. Students who wish to take legal action against their perpetrator can file a report to their campus Title IX office.
UH Maui College Title IX Coordinator Debbi Brown said, “I think a lot of times they don’t want to talk about it. They’re ashamed and they feel it’s their fault. I think just knowing that, no, there’s people here that care and want to help them.”
Brown said if students have the resources they need and are informed that resources are confidential or non-confidential, then more students will come forward about their trauma. She hopes that new programs and activities can lower sexual misconduct rates for students.
Title IX coordinators and representatives are trying to come up with new programs and ways that will make the discussion less taboo for students.
Representative and co-convener of the Women’s Legislative Caucus Linda Ichiyama said, “What Title IX is about is ensuring that nobody should be afraid to come to school because they’re being stalked or because they’re being harassed … because that’s a barrier to obtaining education.”
In the 2020 legislative session, the WLC proposed a resolution to form a working group that would make adjustments to Hawaiʻi’s version of Title IX.
The working group would include the Civil Rights Commision, the Department of Education, the University of Hawaiʻi and the Attorney General’s Office.
Campuses are coming up with different actions. For example, UH Mānoa will be training student leaders and select campus employees to be trained on these issues, and to then provide bystander training to other students.
Bystander training helps students identify signs of intimate partner violence and learn skills that can help them intervene in a situation that seems inappropriate. According to Brown, UH Maui College will also begin bystander training for students as soon as possible.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not stopping Title IX or on-campus resources for students. Students can contact Title IX coordinators and on-campus counselors despite shelter-in-place protocols. Both parties are able to connect through video calls, phone calls and text messages.
In a written email sent to the University of Hawaiʻi community, UH President David Lassner says, “Our goal is campus life free of sexual harassment and gender violence, and we have even more to do.”
For more information on Title IX or on-campus counseling, students can visit hawaii.edu/titleix/.