U-News sat down with Title IX Coordinator Mikah Thompson to discuss the implications of the results from the Title IX Climate Survey released two weeks ago.
“If you look at the number of students who reported that they had experienced nonconsensual contact or nonconsensual sexual intercourse, the number averages in the 5 percent range,” Thompson said. “It’s kind of a low number. I think some of our students who’ve had that experience didn’t take the survey. We have a lot of work to do here. We want that number to be zero.”
The Title IX Office is forming a task force with help from UMKC students and faculty.
“That task force is going to go through the survey very closely, and identify the areas that stand out and identify the areas that need additional programing and education to produce awareness in our students,” Thompson said.
Some areas already identified include more bystander intervention education and cyber harassment prevention.
“It’s a part of changing the culture,” Thompson said, acknowledging the difficulty in combating online harassment, something that many survey respondents identified as a problem. “Our students indicated that a lot of harassment is going on through YikYak, Snapchat, a lot of these social media sites where it’s anonymous and you can’t identify who’s doing it.”
Thompson identified healthy relationships as an area in need of more education.
“Students indicated a couple of things: first that a lot of the nonconsensual sexual intercourse is happening not by force, but through coercion,” Thompson said. Coercion occurs when a person is threatened or blackmailed by their partner into having sex.
“We also need to address how students approach one another when starting a romantic relationship,” Thompson said. “A lot of complaints that I receive are about students who have been rejected, but continue to pursue that person. They may show up at their dorm. They may show up at their class. And it gets to a level where it’s harassment or stalking. I think a lot of our students don’t realize that is inappropriate activity.”
Thompson says that while she believes online training can help, the real education will be happening in face-to-face talks about healthy relationships.
“We’ve got to do some education on what a healthy relationship looks like, how you deal with rejection, and how you really move on, because otherwise, your continued pursuit of that person may turn into harassment,” Thompson said.