To the Editor,
As your staff works to provide important and timely information for the campus community on the topic of sexual assault, I would like to provide some feedback regarding the use and citing of research that has been conducted on campus and nationwide. In the Oct. 29 issue, three data points were reported that had been collected by the 2009 Sexual Assault Research Team Survey. These data were not properly referenced, nor was there any context provided. When sharing statistics with the community, especially those related to such a sensitive issue, it is critical that your readers have an opportunity to understand the nature of the research and that you use multiple data sources to provide accurate and balanced reporting.
I offer for consideration data that were collected using the National College Health Assessment (NCHA) in the spring of 2009. There were 385 women who completed the survey, and on questions that addressed the same three behaviors as those reported in the Oct. 29 issue, 51 women indicated that they had been sexually touched without their consent, 14 said they had experienced attempted rape and six indicated they had experienced a completed rape within the past 12 months. These data are comparable to those collected with the NCHA at similar institutions, with the exception of the sexual touching statistic, which is slightly higher on our campus (13.3 percent vs. 10.6 percent at other private, baccalaureate schools in the Northeast). These data also vary greatly from those reported in The Bucknellian.
Please know that I am in no way seeking to minimize the issue of sexual assault, the significance of the work that lies ahead or the value of important research conducted on campus by our faculty, students and staff. However, as we continue this conversation and seek greater understanding, it will be vitally important for us to continue to examine data from a variety of sources and disciplines to ensure we understand to the greatest extent possible the issues facing Bucknell. Faculty and staff have consulted regarding these two surveys and, while we do not fully understand the differences that lie between these data, it is an important reminder that no one survey answers all questions, and it underscores the importance of using multiple data sources when examining complex social issues.
For a better Bucknell,
Director of the Women’s Resource Center
Coordinator of the Advocate Program
Editor’s Note: As in any print publication, The Bucknellian is constrained by the limitations of space. The data reported from the 2009 Sexual Assault Research Team Survey were included to illustrate the issue of sexual assault on our campus alone. The full context appeared in the Sept. 10 issue of The Bucknellian, but we should clarify that the sample included 342 women and that there was a 38 percent response rate. In addition, there could have been overlap among the three categories of “Touching,” “Attempted rape” and “Completed Rape.”