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Counseling Group Takes Break After Sexual Assault Survey

Response, a group of Harvard students who counsel peers on topics related to relationships, including sexual harassment and assault, has temporarily suspended its hotline and counseling services, citing the need to rest following the release of campus sexual assault survey results late last month.

Response closed on Sunday, and it will reopen on Oct. 12, Columbus Day, according to Lucia R.I. Millham ’16, the group’s co-director.

“Our staffers need to rest after a busy and difficult beginning to Fall semester,” Millham wrote in an email. “While we strongly wish to be as available to the community as possible, we felt it was important to give our staffers the time to take care of themselves, in part so that they can continue to provide quality service.”

Harvard released its results of a sexual assault climate survey in late September after the Association of American Universities administered it at 27 universities nationwide. Harvard’s results revealed levels of sexual assault on campus that top administrators deemed “deeply troubling.”

Sexual Misconduct at Harvard and Other Schools
Slightly more than 29 percent of surveyed Harvard senior women—a category which includes some students in the Division of Continuing Education—reported that they had experienced nonconsensual penetration and sexual touching since coming to college. The rate was 27.2 across all 27 schools that participated in the Association of American Universities survey. When Harvard DCE students were removed, the prevalence rate of nonconsensual penetration and sexual touching rose from 29.2 percent to 31.2 percent of Harvard respondents, according to a report from former Harvard Provost Steven E. Hyman.
Thirty-one percent of senior female undergraduates at the College surveyed reported having experienced some kind of sexual misconduct—what the survey termed “nonconsensual sexual contact”—during their time at Harvard. Sixteen percent of female Harvard College seniors surveyed, meanwhile, said they had experienced unwanted sexual penetration or attempted penetration involving physical force or incapacitation in that time.

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Vegas L. Longlois ’16, one of Response’s co-directors, declined to comment on whether more students have sought counseling from the service since the release of the survey statistics, but she wrote in an email that the group saw an increase in requests for their counselors to attend events such as community discussions on the survey results.

At least one other student support service has also seen higher demand after the survey. Harvard’s Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response “has experienced an uptick not only in hotline calls, but also in requests for programming and interest in volunteering” since the release of the survey results, according to Alicia Oeser, OSAPR’s director.

Oeser added in an email that she supports Response’s decision to close temporarily. Millham encouraged students to reach out to OSAPR and other peer counseling services during the group’s break.

Continued discussion about the survey results comes as the College is under federal investigation into its compliance with anti-sex discrimination law Title IX. Harvard recently overhauled the way it handles sexual assault complaints by creating a centralized office to investigate cases across the University.

—Staff writer Ivan B. K. Levingston can be reached at Ivan.Levingston@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @IvanLevingston.

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