When students experience sexual violence and harassment (SVSH), the course they choose to take depends on their access to resources. However, there is a gap in resource education and access on university campuses, leading to important differences in undergraduate and graduate survivors’ experiences. Our quantitative study, conducted by a student- and survivor-led research coalition, examines differences between undergraduate and graduate survivor resource utilization, with a focus on implications for university policies.
UC Survivors + Allies (UCS+A) is a student organization that advocates for and with survivors of sexual violence. In response to a lack of data on student survivors, UCS+A student members collaborated with faculty and staff across 5 UC campuses to develop a survey focusing on students’ awareness, utilization, and evaluation of on- and off-campus resources for survivors. From May through November 2021, UCS+A distributed a 20-minute online survey via outreach to organizations and departments on the 10 UC campuses. Respondents were entered into a raffle for 50 $25 gift cards.
Frequency analyses with chi-squared tests were conducted in SPSS. The sample consists of 1,223 undergraduate (52%) and graduate (48%) students from all 10 UCs. The sample was diverse, with 42% identifying as LGBQ+, 59% identifying as students of color, and 17% identifying as international students. 41% identified as survivors of SVSH.
First, there were differences in the people to whom students turned for support after experiencing SVSH. Graduates turned to non-UC people, such as romantic partners, whereas undergraduates turned to UC-affiliated people such as peers. More graduates turned to Professors than undergraduates.
Second, there were differences in resource utilization. Utilization of on-campus resources was low, with only 6-7% of both groups utilizing Title IX, 10-11% utilizing a confidential resource called CARE, and just 1% utilizing a UC-affiliated rape crisis center. Both undergraduate and graduate survivors were more likely to seek off-campus therapy than campus-based mental health services.
Analyses with international, LGBQ+, and Black and Latinx students revealed further differences. First, international graduates sought both on- and off-campus therapy at lower rates than other graduates. Second, international and Black and Latinx graduates were less likely to seek support from Professors. Third, LGBQ+ graduates were more likely to seek off-campus resources, and LGBQ+ undergraduates were more likely to seek off-campus counseling.
The results highlight how undergraduate and graduate survivors’ experiences differ in the people and organizations they turn to for support. Our findings demonstrate the importance of viewing survivor resource seeking holistically, by including on- and off-campus resources and people. Low rates of utilizing UC resources compared with high rates of seeking support from romantic partners (for graduates) and UC friends (for undergraduates) highlight the need for universities to provide additional training and education to partners and students. Further, these results suggest that LGBQ+, international and Black and Latinx survivors need more targeted support, particularly regarding mental health resources.