Responding to Sexual Violence

Service Utilization

Though rates of sexual violence prevalence are high on university and college campuses, there is a general lack of knowledge among students regarding where and how to use sexual violence services. One study investigating this problem in the United States found that students had limited awareness of campus resources for sexual violence and only moderate confidence in knowing where to go for assistance in the event of a sexual assault, which was consistent with earlier research. Another study in Canada found similarly that most students were unaware of the majority of sexual violence services, and when students were aware of the services, less than half of the students knew how to access them and very few had used them before. One study found that though sexual assault resource information was made available on campus, only half of students reported having received that information, suggesting that universities and colleges may struggle to consistently distribute the information, or alternatively that students may not be engaged when receiving the information. For help in effectively advertising your sexual violence programming to students on your own campus, please see the Advertising Your Program template.

There is significant evidence that even when students are aware of services available to them, they are reluctant to use those services. One study in Ontario found that though most participants were aware of sexual violence services on their campus, a majority of participants said they would not use or were unsure whether they would use a variety of university-provided services. In a study out of the United States, 97% of participants who were victims of unwanted sexual contact revealed that they did not use any services. In another study from the United States, victims of sexual violence reported significantly less confidence in campus sexual violence resources and significantly less interest in attending a self-defence course than non-victims. In a systematic review of barriers and facilitators of health service utilization on campus, it was found that hypothetical use of these services was high among non-victims whereas actual use of the services among victims of sexual violence was low, suggesting that students were aware of the services available to them but were struck with barriers when it came to actually reaching out for help.

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