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Month: December 2014

Crucial Findings from the BJS Report about Campus Rape
Posted by On Monday, December 22, 2014

Earlier this month the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released data from its National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) that looked at rape and sexual assault victimization among college-age women in the last two decades. In particular, the report compared victimization rates between students and non-students.

Because of its focus on college-age women, the report garnered considerable media attention. Articles focused on two findings: nonstudents were more likely to experience rape or sexual assault than students, and the reported victimization rate of 6.1 per 1000 for student women appears much lower than the widely circulated 1 in 5 statistic.

In this post we look at the NCVS’s data in more detail, and consider the implications of its findings for administrators who work on these issues. In a later post, we’ll discuss the NCVS’s purpose and methodology in more detail and explain why its numbers look different from other studies. (You can read our earlier post on a similar topic here.)

NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, all information here refers to women between the ages of 18 and 24 (i.e. “college-age females”). In this post, we use the term “victim” to refer to individuals who have reported experiencing sexual assault or rape to remain consistent with the NCVS’s own terminology.

1. Nonstudents are more likely to be victimized than students

We lead off with this finding, since it has received the most attention.

The NCVS showed that between 1995 and 2013 female nonstudents between the ages of 18 and 24 were 1.2 times more likely to experience rape and sexual assault than female students of the same age. This difference was largely due to female nonstudents experiencing higher rates of completed rape. There was no significant difference between the two groups for attempted rape or other sexual assault.

In general, the NCVS found that female nonstudents experienced violent victimization at 1.6 times the rate of students. Nonstudents experienced violent victimization at the rate of 73.1 per 1000. Students experienced violent victimization at 46.3 per 1000. Violent victimization includes rape, sexual assault, robbery, and assault (aggravated and simple). The NCVS does not measure homicide.

In a recent opinion piece in the New York Times, researcher Callie Marie Rennison reflected on these findings:

The focus on sexual violence against some of our most privileged young people has distracted us from the victimization of those enjoying less social and economic advantage….Above all, we need to remember these women when we talk about rape and sexual assault. Women at the margins are the ones who bear the brunt of the harshest realities, including sexual violence, and they do so with the least resources.

2. Females 18-24 had the highest rate of rape and sexual assault victimization

Buried under the focus on the differences in victimization rates for college-age female students and nonstudents is the fact that overall the group experiences rape and sexual assault at a higher rate than women in any other age group.

In 2013, the rate for both college-age female students and nonstudents was about 4.3 victimizations per 1000, whereas the rate for non-college age females was much lower at 1.4 victimizations per 1000. Between 1995 and 2013, students experienced rape and sexual assault at a rate of 6.1 victimizations per 1000 people. Nonstudents experienced rape and sexual assault at a rate of 7.6 per 1000.

Regardless of whether they are students or non-students, rape and sexual assault among college-age females is a serious problem and deserves the attention and resources it has received. It also highlights the importance of initiatives, such as this one in Ashland, Oregon, which attempt to make the criminal justice system and campuses more responsive to the needs of survivors.

(Note: the NCVS does not measure victimizations for individuals under 12.)

3. Rates of rape and sexual assault for college-age women have held steady

Another finding in the report that has not gotten the attention it deserves is that the rates of sexual assault and rape for college-age women have held steady for the past fifteen years. To quote the report:

For both students and nonstudents ages 18 to 24, the 2013 rates of rape and sexual assault were not significantly different from their respective rates in 1997.

What makes this fact surprising is that, according to the BJS, violent crime has decreased in the past two decades. To quote from the NCVS report on criminal victimization in 2013, “Since 1993, the rate of violent crime has declined from 79.8 to 23.2 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older.” So the fact that sexual assault and rape victimization have remained stable apparently runs counter to the larger trend for violent crime.

(Although the starting date of ’93 and ’97 are different, the overall trend of decreased violent victimization appears to be consistent with the numbers between ’97 and 2013 as well.)

4. Acquaintance assault is the norm

The NCVS confirmed what we know about the nature of assault. For both students and nonstudents only around 20% of the incidents involved a stranger. On the other hand, for students, 50% of the incidents involved an acquaintanceand another 24% involved an intimate partner. For nonstudents, 34% of assaults involved an intimate partner and 37% involved an acquaintance.

In nearly half of the incidents, the perpetrator had been drinking or using drugs. About 1 in 10 victimizations involved a weapon, and most of the assaults occurred between 6 pm and 6 am.

5. First-year women are not at a greater risk for sexual assault than other female students

Interestingly, there was no significant difference in the rate of victimization by age for female college students. This result seems to undercut the assumption that first year students are more vulnerable to rape and sexual assault than other students. On the other hand, the report does not tell us what time of the year the assaults occurred, so we don’t know if women might be more vulnerable in the first few weeks of school (the “Red Zone”) versus other times in the academic year.

For female nonstudents, on the other hand, the rate of victimization for 18- to 21-year-olds was higher than it was for 22- to 24-year-olds.

6. Male students are more likely to be victimized than nonstudents.

Although the focus of the BJS’s special report was college-age women, some worrying information did emerge about college-age male victims.

Though the rate of sexual assault for male students is much lower than for female students, male students still made up 17% of the victimizations for students. The male victimization rate was 1.4 per 1000 for college students compared to only .3 per 1000 for nonstudents.

In fact, according to the report, male students are five times more likely to experience rape than male nonstudents. This information suggests that schools could do well to focus on creating resources to support male survivors.

7. Rape and sexual assault are the most underreported violent crimes

Female students were less likely to report the assault than female nonstudents: 20% of female student victimizations were reported to the police, compared to 33% of female nonstudent victimizations. Furthermore, only 16% of female students received assistance from a victim service agency.

By comparison, the NCVS indicates that 45.6% of all violent crimes in 2013 were reported to the police. According to the NCVS, rape and sexual assault are the violent crimes least likely to be reported to the police:  just 34.8% of all rapes or sexual assaults are reported to the police.

Some of the reasons female students didn’t report were:

1.) They felt it was a personal matter (26%)
2.) They feared reprisal (20%)
3.) They did not think it was serious enough to report (12%)

The fact that 1 in 5 student victims feared reprisal is deeply troubling and suggests that much work needs to be done to change campus climates that still suffer from attitudes and beliefs that discourage victims from coming forward.

As recommended by the White House Task Force Report, climate surveys are a good way for colleges and universities to better understand the problem on their campuses and could provide a valuable way for schools to determine the next step in developing their own prevention programs.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, December 19, 2014

These three stories examine why binge drinking remains a persistent issue on college campuses, and propose possible solutions to a thus far intractable problem.

The Long Story of Unsuccessful Efforts to Fight College Binge Drinking

According to this New York Times article, the history of modern efforts to curb college binge drinking can be traced back to the early 1990s when the College Alcohol Survey, run by Harvard social psychologist Henry Weschler, surveyed 17,000 students on their drinking habits. Weschler’s findings brought the term “binge drinking” into the public consciousness and precipitated a plethora of further research, college and government initiatives, and media coverage aimed at investigating and curbing excessive drinking amongst America’s college students. The human costs are staggering:  each year 1,800 students die from alcohol poisoning, 600,000 suffer alcohol-related injuries, 100,000 experience alcohol-influenced sexual assaults, and one in four say their academic performance suffered from drinking. In the two decades since, the college drinking rate has stayed steady, in spite of these consequences and the aforementioned efforts to keep students sober, or at least more sober. The article explores some of the reasons that the problem has proved intractable even in the face of enormous amounts of money, effort, and research, and why certain solutions known to work, such as partnerships with local alcohol-selling businesses and stepped up enforcement, have proven difficult to implement.

What Kind of Education Can Help Prevent Binge Drinking?

This Washington Post piece posits that education aimed at preventing binge-drinking, other forms of substance abuse, and even sexual assault could benefit from a shift in what we consider taboo in the classroom. Author Alyssa Rosenberg points to programs such as the demonstrably ineffective D.A.R.E. to suggest that simply teaching future college students to say “no,” whether to drinking, drug use, or even sex, is only half the battle. She suggests that, although such training might cause controversy, teaching students about to leave home for the greater freedoms of college how to safely drink and engage in sexual activity could be crucial to giving them a safe college experience.

Could School-Run Bars Help Prevent Binge Drinking?

Even more potentially controversial is this suggestion from The New Republic, which advocates a counter-intuitive solution to college binge drinking: Have colleges start selling the alcohol themselves to “afford the school enormous influence over how, when, and how much students [] drink.” Specifically, the piece recommends that colleges open bars on campus where students can drink (presumably) more safely than they would at off-campus house parties and bars. Author Naomi Shavin points out that this would give schools more control over and insight into students’ drinking habits while also keeping drinking closer to campus, cutting down on DUIs, and keeping inebriated students close to potentially life-saving emergency services.

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Senators Focus on Campus Assault Police Reports
Posted by On Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Previously, we have written about victims’ reluctance to report campus sexual assaults to the police. Finding the solution to that problem is front and center in the debate about how schools and the criminal justice system should be handling cases of sexual violence. This debate set the stage for a hearing held last week by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on improving law enforcement’s response to campus sexual assault and the relationship between police departments and campuses.

Opening remarks at the hearings unanimously called for a different approach that will better address sexual assault victims’ fear of being revictimized when reporting these crimes.

Sen. Claire McCaskill discussed the importance of strengthening victim support systems, stating that “A victim who is assaulted on a Friday night needs to know, on that Friday night, where she can call and where she can go for confidential support and good information, which we hope gives her the encouragement to make the choice to move forward in the criminal justice system.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand testified, “[O]ur ultimate goal should be that 100 percent of survivors of campus sexual assault feel comfortable and confident reporting to law enforcement . . . But, time and again, I have heard from far too many survivors of campus sexual assault that they have felt re-victimized by the process of trying to seek justice for the crime committed against them.”

Last July, together with a bipartisan group of Senators, Senators McCaskill and Gillibrand introduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, intended to protect and empower students and increase accountability for schools around sexual violence.

Improving Campus Response Goes Hand-in-Hand With Improving Police Response

Angela Fleischer, the Assistant Director of Student Support and Intervention for Confidential Advising at Southern Oregon University, helped create the Ashland Police Department’s You Have Options Program and Southern Oregon’s Campus Choice. Fleischer said at the hearings that “The need for programs like these is urgent and undeniable . . ..”

According to Fleischer, improving the campus response goes hand-in-hand with improving the law enforcement response. To improve reporting of sexual assault, she urges both campus administration and law enforcement to start by training anyone who interviews victims on trauma informed interviewing techniques. By creating a coordinated victim-centered approach, the You Have Options and Campus Choice programs have more than doubled reporting of sexual assault in their jurisdictions.

This approach also focuses on collecting information about offenders in the community by allowing victims to come forward and report in the manner in which they are most comfortable, whether it is anonymously, in person, or online. Besides having control over reporting, victims also decide the timeframe and scope of the investigation with the option to suspend the investigation at any time.

Best Practices

Speaking from the perspective of law enforcement, Kathy Zoner, Chief of the Cornell University Police, offered best practices that can be adopted on all campuses:

  • Adopt victim-centered and offender-focused response procedures;
  • Prioritize medical and advocacy resources for every victim who reports a sexual assault;
  • Provide non-victim-blaming education to community members within the agency’s jurisdiction;
  • Train and hold accountable every member of the participating agency – sworn and non-sworn – for the same victim-centered and offender-focused response; and
  • Promote an environment within the agency where victims of sexual assault are not judged or blamed for their assault and instead are treated with dignity, sensitivity, and courtesy.

Creating a New System

Peg Langhammer, Executive Director of Day One, Rhode Island’s sexual assault coalition, told the committee that what’s needed is to create a new universal system such as the You Have Options program. According to Langhammer, “We can’t expect victims to report when the system in place doesn’t work . . . So the question is not, should colleges be mandated to report these crimes to police? The question is how do we create a system where the victim’s choices are the priority and the process is designed to work in the best interest of the victim?”

Langhammer recommends a new system made up of a team of representatives from law enforcement, prosecution, victim advocates, medical professionals, and higher education that is responsible for handling sexual assault cases from the initial report to investigation and resolution.

According to Langhammer, “The college hearing process should be integrated with law enforcement. Police need to be involved, but it has to be a team approach.”

Cooperation and Education

Senators Grassley, McCaskill, Gillibrand, and Whitehouse all pledged to work with the new Congress to pass the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would require schools to enter into a memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement to define their respective responsibilities and to share information in sexual violence cases, “when directed by the victim.”

Meanwhile, Philip Cohen, Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland at College Park, argues that an institution’s “most important obligation and best hope for solving the problem: educating students to change the culture around sexual violence.”

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, December 12, 2014

For this week’s roundup we bring you the latest news from the Senate and the Department of Justice’s report on sexual assault.

Senate Hearings on Campus Sexual Assault

On Tuesday the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime met to discuss campus sexual assault. Senators expressed concern with the way campus sexual assaults are handled by universities and colleges, with several lawmakers questioning the role of the police, or lack thereof, in investigating assaults. Additionally, both Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Claire McCaskill expressed concerns about how the fall-out from Rolling Stone’s now-controversial article on an alleged gang rape at UVA  might affect efforts to fight campus sexual assault at UVA and other schools. Senator Gillibrand said, “And I hope it will not discourage other students from coming forward because it is the students themselves all across the country who are demanding reform and their voices are vital in this debate. And I refuse to let this story become an excuse for Congress to do nothing and accept a broken system.”

Senate Will Move Forward with Campus Sexual Assault Bill in the New Year

One thing the Republican take-over of the Senate will not affect in the new year is Senate plans for bills to combat college sexual assault. Indeed, Republican co-sponsor of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act Chuck Grassley is set to become the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee when Senate Republicans take control of the Senate next year. Said Grassley, “Obviously, this is something we are going to deal with or I wouldn’t be putting my name on a bill. I would think it’s a major issue.”  As we’ve previously reported, the CASA legislation would increase support and resources for victims and survivors, including the creation of a new confidential advisor position at all colleges and universities.

The DOJ Report on Sexual Assault

The Department of Justice has released a report on sexual assault and rape among college-aged females. Their findings are sobering, as might be expected. According to the report, “Fewer than one in five female student and non-student victims of rape and sexual assault received assistance from a victim services agency,” a finding that reinforces the need for a victim-centered approach . The DOJ also found that college-aged women were more likely to experience rape and sexual assault than any other age group, that women not in school were more likely to be assaulted than their peers in college, and that young women in school were less likely to report their assault to law enforcement.

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Free Party Smart Poster
Posted by On Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Party Smart GuideFinals are here. As students gear up for their end of term exams, they may also be planning to party down when they’re done. And other students may be looking forward to a last hurrah this weekend before finals officially start.

This Party Smart poster, based on Think About It and developed at the University of San Francisco by Jennifer Waryas, provides a convenient resource to help students make safe decisions about drinking.

The “Safe Party Guide” offers students tips for before, during, and after a party. It covers everything from setting a limit to using the buddy system, giving students a checklist to follow before they go out. It is perfect for dorm hallways, bulletin boards, or bathrooms.

Download the poster by visiting our Talk About It Community page.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Saturday, December 6, 2014

For this week’s roundup we bring you three perspectives on campus sexual violence we believe are well-worth reading.

Domestic Violence on Campus

This sobering piece from Inside Higher Ed is a reminder that although it may currently be receiving less attention in the media, domestic violence on college campuses is every bit the problem sexual assault is. 20% of students have “experienced domestic violence with a current partner,” and college-aged women are more likely than any other age group to experience intimate partner violence. Fortunately, it also reports on proactive steps being taken by colleges and universities to combat domestic violence amongst their student populations, pointing to the suspension of athletes accused of or arrested for domestic violence, new Department of Education rules requiring schools to report domestic violence statistics, and schools that are offering support to victim/survivors, raising awareness, and encouraging bystander intervention to help prevent violent incidents. It also points out that domestic and dating violence can be a violation of Title IX because it often involves sexual harassment, including sexual violence.

Why Do Schools Investigate Sexual Violence?

That’s a question more and more people have been asking in recent months, as more and more stories about sexual assault cases on college campuses, and the sometimes hideous mishandling of those cases by school administrators, dominate headlines. In this opinion piece for Time Foundation for Individual Rights in Education Senior Vice President Robert Shibley argues in favor of policies that would encourage or even require schools to bring more sexual assault cases to the police. Shibley claims that schools are ill-equipped to investigate and adjudicate offenses that would be felonies if tried in the criminal justice system and that law enforcement is the only apparatus through which obviously dangerous sexual predators can be removed from society at large. He argues compellingly that it would be in everyone’s interest if local law enforcement were better trained and equipped to investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of sexual violence. On the other side of the debate is the Politico piece linked to above, co-penned by Elizabeth Deutsch and Alexandra Brodsky, founding co-director of Know Your IX. They investigate the history of sexual harassment and violence and Title IX and argue that while law enforcement has an important role to play in preventing and investigating campus sexual violence, school administrators are an equally crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to ensuring that victim/survivors and potential victim/survivors have the access to federally-funded education they are guaranteed by law. As Deutsch and Brodsky point out, police do not have the power to switch a student’s dorm, punish emotional abuse, or any of a number of solutions open to administrators.

Some of the Most Disturbing Confessions of Campus Perpetrators

As part of a piece documenting the history of sexual assault on college campuses, NPR spoke to Mary Koss, one of the first researchers to investigate campus sexual violence and the first person to report that 1 in 4 women will be raped while in college. Koss spoke about some of the most disturbing findings she’s come across in her decades of research on the subject, which she describes as a “list of ‘OMG’ experiences.” Such “OMG experiences” include the revelation that 7.7 percent of the male students surveyed admitted to having had or attempted to have forced sex and, perhaps far worse that hardly any of those men considered what they had done or attempted to do a crime. In the piece Koss also speaks about school’s reactions to sexual assault and how a lack of consequences for the crime can contribute to its prevalence and the attitudes revealed by the “OMG experiences” described above.

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Workplace Bullying and Campus Culture
Posted by On Friday, December 5, 2014

The metaphors victims of workplace bullying use to describe their experiences are as disquieting as they are telling. They describe the experience as a nightmare or torture, the bully as a dictator or demon, and their own position, as the target of the bully’s abuse, as a slave, prisoner, or child (Tracy, Lutgen-Sandvik, Alberts 2006). Sadly, the experience of workplace bullying appears to be widespread.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 27% of employees have directly experienced workplace bullying. Another 21% have witnessed it. Similarly, bullying researchers Gary Namie and Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik estimate that as many as 54 million workers have been bullied at work (Namie, Lugtgen-Sandvik 2010).

Individuals who experience abusive conduct may feel humiliated and stigmatized, and they often find themselves socially isolated. Targets can experience psychological and physiological reactions to bullying including depression, anxiety, headaches, nausea, insomnia, and burnout.

“For persons who strongly identify with their jobs or professions, the experience [of workplace bullying] can be devastating,” explains Lutgen-Sandvik, “it rends asunder targeted workers’ life narratives…When this narrative is deeply disrupted, persons lose their moorings and are cast adrift.”

The effects of abusive conduct, however, extend beyond the targets, damaging the entire institution. Indeed, growing research suggests that even just witnessing incidents of abusive conduct increases stress and decreases job satisfaction (Namie, Lugtgen-Sandvik 2010). Fear of a bully or the experience of abusive conduct can reduce creativity and the willingness  to take initiative. It hinders communication, damages trust, and lowers morale. At the level of the institution, it can increase turnover and absenteeism and decrease worker productivity (Lutgen-Sandvik 2006, 2008).

Indeed, we typically talk about bullying as perpetrated by single individuals. But Namie and Lutgen-Sandvik suggest that workplace bullies rarely operate without accomplices, whether active or passive in enabling the abusive behavior. Passive accomplices indirectly support abusive conduct through “siding with bullies, laughing at the jokes made at targets’ expense, or ostracizing targets” (Namie, Lugtgen-Sandvik 2010). While research suggests most bullies act alone, about 60% of  harassers receive support, most often by senior managers or the harasser’s peers. When combined with cases with multiple harassers, Namie and Lutgen-Sandvik found that almost 70% of bullying situations involved more than the stereotypical lone harasser (Namie Lutgen-Sandvik 2010).

Why Academics Bully

Given the collaborative nature of academic work, it is perhaps unsurprising that there has been considerable attention paid to bullying in academia recently. A few years ago, the American Association of University Professors listed bullying as a top ten workplace issue for faculty members and higher education professionals. And in their May-June issue this year, they spotlighted academic bullying, examining not just the abusive conduct that happens among faculty or staff but bullying at the hands of students too. Indeed, since 2006 there has been a blog devoted to academic bullying that covers stories about abusive conduct in the workplace and research on the subject.

Last year a post on the popular blog The Thesis Whisper, tackled the issue of “academic a**holes and the circle of niceness,” speculating on why abusive conduct seems to be prevalent in the academy. One theory the post explores is that  higher education’s intellectual atmosphere and the premium it places on appearing smart can actually encourage bullying.

Put simply, research suggests that being critical of other people makes you look smart. For example, two researchers at Central Michigan University asked students to write a movie review that they would show to a partner. They asked some of the students to write a review that would make their partner like them; they asked other students to write a review that would make them look smart. The students who wanted to look smart wrote more negative and more critical reviews than the other students. The study supported earlier research conducted by Teresa Amabile, which had found that readers rated negative reviews as more intelligent than positive reviews. It seems, in short, that being critical of other people makes us look smart. Hence, in a workplace that values intelligence, there is an advantage to attacking one’s colleagues.

As explained in a blog post at the Guardian, “In the higher education context where discussion, debate and criticism are encouraged, behaviours directed at undermining another individual can be more easily justified as part of the job, while competition for limited research resources may lead to displays of power and hidden agendas that can make the wider academic context even more toxic.”

There has been some response to this issue at colleges and universities. As reported at InsideHigherEd, the Faculty Senate at the University of Wisconsin at Madison approved a policy aimed to address academic bullying. Explaining the impetus behind the policy, Soyeon Shim, dean of the School of Human Ecology at Wisconsin, told InsideHigherEd, “I strongly believe that nobody excels in an environment that is not civil…Civility is needed to maximize talent. Eighty to 90 percent of our assets here are human capital – we’re not making stuff, we’re not machines. We work with our minds and we have to feel like we are in a position to maximize our potential.” Recently California also passed a law that would require organizations with more than 50 employees (including colleges and universities) to train supervisors on the prevention of abusive conduct.

However some responses  have also come up against strong opposition. In particular, critics see the focus on bullying and abusive conduct as a threat to academic freedom and freedom of speech. At the beginning of the school year, Berkeley’s Chancellor Nicholas Dirks sent an email to his campus calling for greater civility in campus dialogues. “We can only exercise our right to free speech insofar as we feel safe and respected in doing so,” Dirks wrote, “and this in turn requires that people treat each other with civility.” Dirks’s email received an immediate backlash from critics who characterized the email as an assault on academic freedom. UCLA Historian Michael Meranze explained the potentially silencing effects of calls for civility: “The demand for civility effectively outlaws a range of intellectual, literary, and political forms: satire is not civil, caricature is not civil, hyperbole and aesthetic mockery are not civil nor is polemic. Ultimately the call for civility is a demand that you not express anger; and if it was enforced it would suggest that there is nothing to be angry about in the world.” In developing his point, Meranze referred to several high profile incidents where faculty were reprimanded or lost their jobs because of their speech.

Dirks later clarified his message, explaining he had not intended to suggest any curtailing of academic freedom or freedom of speech. Nonetheless, as this incident illustrates, academia’s emphasis on the free exchange of ideas also makes it difficult and problematic to police behaviors that targets may feel is abusive without discussions of academic freedom.

Encouraging the Conversation

Some research suggests, however, that the problem isn’t that speech is too unrestrained in the workplace, but rather that some speech around abusive conduct is silenced or marginalized. In a white paper on “How to Bust the Office Bully,” researchers Sarah Tracy, Jess Alberts, and Kendra Dyanne Rivera argue that one reason workplace abuse goes unrecognized is that in the US “people like to hear about heroes rather than victims.” They go on to explain “being a victim carries cultural ideas of deservedness.” As a result, when someone complains about workplace abuse they often find themselves blamed.

So Tracy, Alberts, and Rivera recommend “eight tactics to help bullying targets best tell their stories so that other people listen and find them credible.”

  • Be rational
  • Express emotions appropriately
  • Provide consistent details
  • Offer a plausible story
  • Be relevant
  • Emphasize your own competence
  • Show consideration for others’ perspectives
  • Be specific

As the researchers acknowledge, however, telling a “credible” story is not always easy when the target is still suffering from the effects of trauma. Indeed, perhaps the burden should fall on the fact finder or investigator, not the victim. In this respect, their research could prove useful to supervisors who might have to respond to complaints of workplace abuse. Understanding why stories are perceived as credible could help these supervisors reflect on their own biases. (Read our posts [here and here] for more information on the effects of trauma and talking to victims of trauma.)

As with many of the issues we cover, then, the change often has to begin with ourselves. We can be more reflective and mindful of our own practices and actively encourage positive behaviors through our own acts of kindness.

Selected Sources

Lutgen-Sandvik, P. (2008). “Intensive remedial identity work: Responses to workplace bullying as trauma and stigma.” Organization Special Issue (Managing Identities in Complex Organizations), 15 (1), 97-119.

Lutgen-Sandvik, P. (2006). “Take this job and …: Quitting and other forms of resistance to workplace bullying.” Communication Monographs, 73, 406-433.

Namie, G., & Lutgen-Sandvik, P. (2010) “Active and Passive Accomplices: The Communal Character of Workplace Bullying.” International Journal of Communication, 4, 343-373.

Namie, G. (2014). 2014 WBI US Workplace Bullying Survey. Workplace Bullying Institute.

Project for Wellness and Work-Life at Arizona State University

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