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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Lily Gouin
Lily Gouin
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Hi! My name is Lily Gouin I am in my third year here at NMU. I am from Appleton, WI majoring in communications and double minoring in multimedia journalism and public relations. In my free time, I like...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

What do tattoos have to do with sexual assault?

Editor’s Note: An image was previously posted with this story for photo illustrative purposes. The photo showed a man’s tattooed arms, but not his head. The man in the photo had nothing to do with the sexual assault survey story. The North Wind is deeply apologetic for any harm caused by the juxtaposition of the photo and the headline of the story. 

The Institutional Review Board approved a sexual assault survey created by two faculty members that was released via email to NMU students on Sunday, Nov. 14 to help better understand risk factors of sexual assault victimization on college campuses.

The survey was anonymous and asked questions regarding college lifestyle, background characteristics and whether students are more likely to be victimized. Kevin Waters, assistant professor of criminal justice, came up with the questions used in the survey, many of them based on a late-1990s nationwide survey of college women.

“My aim is to identify certain risk factors that would result in tangible policies that would help keep college students safe from sexual assault,” Waters said.“I am a researcher but also a human. I have sentiments and biases.”

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Despite Waters’ best intentions, some students felt the survey was insensitive and offensive to sexual assault victims.

Kat Klawes, junior secondary education-English and theatre major, said she was offended by the survey. Klawes is also the ASNMU president this year. Klawes said she felt the survey had questions that were irrelevant and offensive.

“Asking a person how many sexual partners they have had, how many tattoos and whether they are satisfied with their tattoos, is not in any matter relevant to sexual assault,” Klawes said.

Klawes added that the survey only gave two gender options.  “I think that it restricts the accurate data by not measuring those who do not conform to gender norms, who are one of the highest demographics that are sexually assaulted,” Klawes said.

Another student, Katelyn Liubakka, senior biology/physiology and history major said, “I think it’s commendable that NMU appears to be taking steps to change their sexual assault policies.”

Liubakka also serves on the ASNMU executive board. After reviewing the sexual assault survey Liubakka felt many of the questions were pointed and could further victimize students who have been assaulted.

“The questions in future surveys should be more sensitive to victims of sexual assault,” Liubakka said.

Waters, who designed the survey, acknowledged that some questions may have seemed insensitive, irrelevant or made assumptions about a respondent’s character. Waters said he took criticism of the survey very seriously.

“An important criticism students expressed about my survey instrument was: Why don’t you ask these questions of offenders rather than victims?” Waters recounted.

The students argued that by asking victims about their routine activities and lifestyles could be construed as blaming the victim. Waters said he believes these are valid criticisms.

  The survey contained approximately 60 questions. The first 20 questions related to demographic and personal characteristics. The purpose of the several related tattoo questions, he said, was to understand a personality variable that could be a risk factor for victimization.

Waters said a person’s tattoo may or may not be a personality trait as a risk factor of sexual assault victimization.

Ultimately, Waters said, the overall goal of the survey is to decrease sexual assault victimization.

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