Building an Effective University Infrastructure

Addressing Sexual Violence on Campus

Topics: Student Affairs, Student Health and Wellness, Administration and Finance, Risk Management

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Executive Summary

The status quo institutional response to sexual violence is decentralized and disorganized.

On an average college campus, sexual violence is viewed as a student affairs issue and a small prevention office struggles to coordinate efforts and keep up with ever increasing legislative mandates. Sexual misconduct policies and procedures are outdated and don’t address the range of unwanted sexual behavior students experience throughout their time on campus. Prevention education primarily occurs at new student orientation, and faculty and staff are unaware of their reporting and support role.

A robust sexual violence task force distributes the responsibility of addressing sexual violence across the campus community.

Individuals who represent a variety of stakeholder groups on campus are strategically identified and invited to join the sexual violence task force. A core planning group sets the task force agenda and work plan and has the final say in decision making.

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Surveying the current landscape of sexual violence on campus informs task force efforts.

In order to effectively address sexual violence, the task force must understand the current state on campus. The task force should map out campus “hot spots” where assaults are most likely to occur. Conducting interviews with campus constituents can reveal attitudes and behaviors in regards to sexual violence that are prevalent on campus. Lastly, an audit of existing prevention programming can identify duplicative efforts and gaps in training.

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Overarching student learning outcomes guide all prevention programming on campus, and assessment is embedded from the outset.

One-off sexual violence prevention events do not lead to long-term changes in student attitudes and behaviors. A comprehensive prevention education strategy should be put in place that progressively builds students’ knowledge and skills over time. Rigorous assessment directed by engaged faculty, the institutional research office, or other campus experts must be at the core of prevention education efforts.

Sexual violence policies accurately reflect the realities of students’ experiences on campus. These policies, procedures, and resources are easily accessible.

Research shows that students can experience a wide range of unwanted sexual behavior. A comprehensive sexual misconduct policy is key to educating students about sexual violence offenses and providing protections to both the victim and the perpetrator. A high-quality sexual violence website provides information and resources to the campus community in an accessible format.

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Faculty and staff are the cornerstone of response efforts. Just-in-time resources quickly educate faculty and staff about their role in supporting students in crisis.

Getting faculty and staff to attend in-person training about sexual violence can be challenging. However, faculty and staff often receive disclosures of sexual assault and may not know how to respond. A simple solution is a digestible sexual violence response guide. While this doesn’t replace the value of an in-person training, it gets critical information into the hands of all faculty and staff.

The Realities of Sexual Violence on Campus