Mobile sites and mythbusters: 55 universities respond to sexual assault "wake-up call"

In 2015, a campus climate survey from the Association of American Universities (AAU) revealed surprising levels of sexual misconduct on campus. As a follow-up, 55 colleges and universities recently responded to another survey about what they have done to improve.  

A key finding from the 2015 survey was that 23% of female students experienced sexual assault or misconduct. However, less than one third of incidents were reported to authorities and only about 25% of students said they were knowledgeable about available resources related to sexual misconduct.

According to the follow-up survey, participating colleges have responded with a wide variety of strategies that include improving sexual misconduct reporting and an increase in efforts by university leaders to gauge student attitudes about sexual assault on campus.

Fixing barriers to reporting

The 2015 report also revealed that sexual misconduct is dramatically underreported on campus: "more than 50% of victims of even the most serious incidents say they do not report the event because they do not consider it serious enough."

Since then, participating universities have made efforts to increase student reporting. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign launched a website called "We Care" that allows students to submit confidential reports.  It is mobile friendly and features frequently asked questions about prevention, university policies, disciplinary procedures, and other resources.

More than 90% of the institutions that responded to the follow-up survey said they were also increasing victim support and student training resources. 

Introduce anonymous sexual assault reporting on your campus

Engaging students in prevention efforts

Around 84% of institutions that responded to the follow-up survey said they had also developed new programs and education about sexual assault. New programs at participating schools include:

  • Myth-busting initiatives, which help dispel myths about the occurrence of sexual violence;
  • Consent education, which gives students an explicit definition of what saying yes looks like versus saying no to a sexual encounter; and
  • Discussions with victimized subpopulations, such as the LGBTQ community and students of color.

To get ideas for programs, schools such as the University of Pennsylvania and Indiana University have begun using student leaders to help them make recommendations and review current policies for sexual assault prevention. 

Peer-led programs: Partner with students in preventing sexual assault

In 2015, Mary Sue Coleman, president of the AAU, called the original landmark report a wake-up call. This year she said that university leaders now understand the seriousness of the issue. However, the AAU's report acknowledges that there is no "magic bullet" in solving the widespread problem of campus sexual assault (Bauer-Wolf, Inside Higher Ed, 4/27; Larimer/Svrluga, Washington Post, 4/26; AAU report, accessed 4/27). 

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