UN Report on Cyber Violence

The United Nations Broadband Commission has released a landmark report on the growing problem of on-line violence and harassment against women and girls. According to today’s press release:

[the report] reveals that almost three quarters of women online have been exposed to some form of cyber violence, and urges governments and industry to work harder and more effectively together to better protect the growing number of women and girls who are victims of online threats and harassment.
The report notes that despite the rapidly growing number of women experiencing online violence, only 26 per cent of law enforcement agencies in the 86 countries surveyed are taking appropriate action. . .Without concerted global action to curb the various escalating forms of online violence, an unprecedented surge of ‘cyber violence against women and girls (cyber VAWG)’ could run rampant and significantly impede the uptake of broadband by women everywhere, the report contends. It notes that cyber VAWG already exists in many forms, including online harassment, public shaming, the desire to inflict physical harm, sexual assaults, murders and induced suicides.

The full 60-page report – which is sub-titled ‘A World-Wide Wake-up Call’ – contains lots of helpful (and troubling) information.

Results from Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey at Boston University

You can read the whole report here, or read an article about in BU Today here.

Below are some quotes and findings from the survey:

“The survey was sent in March 2015 to 27,086 undergraduate and graduate students. Recipients of the survey request will recall that the University offered to make a $5 donation per completed survey to one of four Boston-area advocacy and support services for survivors of sexual assault, rape, and violence.” (From an email sent out with the results)

Here are some key findings from the report:
  • A total of 5,875 students responded to the survey, a 22% participation rate.
  • One in six respondents (18%) reported experiencing some form of sexual assault while a BU student. (There are significant variations by gender in the numbers that make up this average, which is consistent with averages reported by other institutions conducting climate surveys.)
  • A majority of reported incidents involved alcohol use: 78% of respondents who reported experiencing sexual misconduct say that they had consumed alcohol beforehand and 86% say their assailants had.
  • A majority of respondents (63%) who reported experiencing sexual misconduct said that the incidents occurred off campus.
  • A large majority (94%) of respondents reported feeling safe on campus.

“Female students had less confidence than males in how a reporting student would be protected from retaliation. They also had less confidence that a report would be taken seriously and that corrective action would be taken against the perpetrator. Respondents with nonbinary gender identity had less confidence than female or male respondents that a reporting student would be protected from retaliation, or that the report would be taken seriously and that corrective action would be taken.”

“We really have to untangle the complicated mess of alcohol on campus in conjunction with sexual assault,” Godley says. “I don’t think we can do much about sexual assault unless we address alcohol. I don’t know of any university that has solved this.” (from BU Today)

“It takes courage for a woman to say she’s afraid” – Leventhal

Anna Leventhal in the Toronto Star, regarding the online threats against women at University of Toronto:

In an age where women are routinely told we’re overreacting and being hysterical, that we should just calm down and ignore the bully, there’s absolutely no social capital to be gained by faking victimhood. It takes courage, not cowardice, to say you’re afraid, and say it publicly.

Career opportunities and social privilege

The Washington Post has an interesting interview up with Lauren Rivera, associate professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and author of a new book called Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs. Rivera focuses on careers in finance, law, etc, but much of what she says seems applicable to academia, especially as we enter hiring and grad admissions season. For example:

Quite simply, we like people who are similar to ourselves. Ask anyone what constitutes a good driver, leader, or parent, and chances are they will describe someone like themselves. The same is true for how people think of merit in the working world. Most employees in these firms are graduates of highly elite undergraduate or graduate programs and believe that’s where talent really resides. In addition, given how segregated our society has become socioeconomically, people who grow up in upper-middle or upper-class communities where college attendance is the norm may not realize structural factors that influence educational pathways and erroneously view university prestige as a reflection of ability alone. Finally, national rankings matter. Rankings provide an easily quantifiable, presumably “scientific” way of making sense of the myriad of educational institutions out there. They both reinforce beliefs that school prestige equals student quality (even though things having nothing to do with students’ abilities factor into a university’s rank) and serve as a convenient justification for limiting recruitment to a small number of elite schools with strong alumni ties to firms.