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Transforming Climate Surveys From a Compliance Trend to Sexual Assault Prevention
Posted by On Thursday, April 14, 2016

College campuses, along with many states and the federal government, have all recognized the need for campus climate surveys on a near-universal level. Climate surveys provide the ability to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of the sexual assault problems that occur regularly on college campuses, giving insight to perpetration and victimization trends.

Compliance trends show that climate surveys will soon be required at all higher education institutions in the near future. Incidentally, a climate survey can do more than just help schools meet legal requirements – they can help institutions go far beyond compliance. Compliance currently focuses on education and response, but to benefit the students on your campus, your efforts have to focus on prevention as well.

Instead of just providing the administration with data, climate surveys can become an important tool for the prevention of sexual assault. As we wrote about previously, there are three different types of prevention:

  • Primary Prevention: Addressing an issue before it happens
  • Secondary Prevention: Dealing with the immediate effects of an issue
  • Tertiary Prevention: Managing the long-term effects of an issue

Climate surveys can – and should – fit in to each of the three categories of prevention for a number of important reasons. One, of course, is to stay student-centric. And another is for the importance of proving the value of climate surveys. It is much easier to convince folks to allocate funds to something that is prevention-focused rather than simply retroactive. Let’s break the value of climate surveys down into the three categories of prevention.

Primary prevention is often the only thing people consider when thinking about prevention. It is also often the hardest to fathom. Climate surveys serve as a primary prevention technique through providing definitions of words like sexual assault, rape, consent, and incapacitated. Unfortunately, many perpetrators don’t even realize what they’re doing is wrong, and so by educating potential perpetrators on the weight of their actions, they will be less likely to commit sexual assault. Also, climate surveys show that the institution is taking the problem of sexual assault on campus seriously, and thus adding a deterrent to committing sexual assault. Primary prevention (different from risk reduction), or addressing sexual assault before it occurs, can really only be done by preventing perpetrators from perpetrating. Luckily, climate surveys do this in a couple of ways.

Secondary prevention manages the immediate affects of sexual assault. Climate surveys can be considered secondary prevention because they allow survivors to disclose sexual assault in a safe and anonymous way, which is shown to be healing and therapeutic for many survivors. Climate surveys also can provide students with resources about where to get support if they have been impacted by sexual assault.

Another way climate surveys can be considered secondary prevention is through their usage as a data collection tool. The data received from climate surveys can allow administrators to strengthen and target education and programming by identifying perpetration and victimization trends on campus, thus trying to improve the immediate impacts of sexual assault.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, climate surveys are a great tool for tertiary prevention – if done correctly. Tertiary prevention manages the long-term effects of sexual assault. Distributing a climate survey shows that the institution has a commitment to preventing sexual assault, supporting survivors, and addressing the campus climate. However, one mishandling, or even the perception of such, can harshly impact a student’s trust of the institution. Climate surveys can remediate this distrust and show that resources are being allocated toward stopping sexual assault.

To develop, redevelop, or strengthen student trust, there are some beneficial actions a school can make to within their climate survey implementation.

  • Be intentional with language: Talking about sexual assault can be complicated. Not everyone will identify the incident or incidents that happened to them as sexual assault, and not everyone who experienced sexual assault will consider themselves a survivor. Make sure that you’re being clear about what the survey is about while also being careful about putting labels on people and situations.
  • Test subject lines: The subject of your emails could make all of the difference in who opens the email and who clicks on the link to the survey. If you’re missing respondents of a certain demographic, try out a different subject line that could attract a different set of students. At the end of the day, it is extremely important that the survey respondents are a representative sample of your student body.
  • Test drop-off rates: No matter how many times you think and re-think your survey questions, there could always be something that is triggering or challenging for students. If a question like this does exist, it might be important to know before a full deployment of the survey. Similarly, if the survey is too long, there might be a certain place where users lose interest in completing the survey. Test the survey with a small sample first – either students or non-students – to determine the drop-off rates and locations.
  • Use incentives: Having a large respondent pool will yield the most accurate and representative results. To get a large sample size, offer incentives for survey completion. However, make sure you know how much, or what kind, of incentive will be most appealing to your students. Simply giving out more money may not lead to more respondents.
  • Ensure accessibility: As with online courses, it is important that a survey is WCAG 2.0 AA compliant. It isn’t possible to get a true sample of the campus population if a specific demographic of students is unable to respond to the survey. It is also important to note that identities intersect, and that folks with disabilities are just as, if not more, impacted by sexual violence.
  • Design for mobile optimization: Around 30% of students take climate surveys on their smartphones.  It is important that students can take the survey on any type of device that they own (tablet, phone, laptop, etc.). This is especially important for low-income students who may not own a personal computer.
  • Include content warnings: Using specific language is important in order to achieve accurate results. However, it is equally as important to warn students about the content included in the survey so that they can emotionally prepare themselves. This helps to build trust and display transparency.

Going beyond compliance means not just creating a climate survey to meet a legal requirement, but also to benefit your students and your community. By framing climate surveys as sexual assault prevention, you’ll be able to articulate the value of it, build rapport with students, and focus on improving the campus climate.

Building a climate survey? Watch this short video.


Why Do Victims Minimize Sexual Violence?
Posted by On Tuesday, March 29, 2016

When asked why they didn’t report an incident of sexual assault, a common reason given by survivors is that they didn’t believe it was serious enough to report, or that it wasn’t clear that the assailant meant harm or had committed a crime at all. This outlook contradicts the popular understanding of sexual assault as always being traumatic. Trauma is processed and manifested in complex interactions with the environment in which they occur. Unacknowledged rapes, or experiencing incidents that fit the legal definition of rape but not labeling it as such, are a surprisingly understudied phenomenon considering its prevalence: among a national sample of college women, 73 percent of rape victims did not acknowledge what happened to them as being sexual assault. 

 

We do know some things about the phenomenon. Sexual assaults are more likely to be unacknowledged if they were committed by a current romantic or sexual partner, used less physical force, and resulted in less physical injury to the victim. Additionally, victims who were inebriated during the attack and did not have a clear memory of the incident were less likely to acknowledge the incident as having been sexual assault. Interestingly, 84 percent of victims of unacknowledged rape engage in one or two forms of resistance, such as verbal reasoning, or physical struggling. However, the enactment and violation of the resistance are later re-conceptualized as “miscommunication”.


The data also contains clues about why victims may conceptualize the event as something other than a crime. Those who acknowledged their rapes were more likely to disclose the event to a higher number of people, but also reported receiving more negative feedback from those people compared to victims who did not acknowledge their rapes. Both types of victims experienced similar negative internal states following the attacks, with acknowledged victims experiencing slightly more intense symptoms of PTSD, possibly due to the fact that acknowledged rapes tend to be more violent.

 

Unacknowledged rapes do not remain constant over time—it is likely that low initial acknowledgement rates are related to victims needing time to process the event in order to understand what happened to them. While only 25% of victims who had been raped within a six-month time period acknowledged their rape, 70.5% of rape victims whose rape occurred over three years ago acknowledged what happened to them. Unfortunately, this timeline can make prosecution difficult, as much physical evidence must be collected immediately following the assault.

 

The reasons for unacknowledged rapes are complex. Some studies point to hetero-patriarchal sexual script-building and maintenance during adolescence as important factors. Young girls and women conceptualize male sexual aggression as being a normal part of everyday life and do not consider minor or even major acts of physical aggression as anything other than “just how boys are.” Additionally, girls and women are often taught to police each other’s sexuality as a way to maintain their own moral reputations. That is, they commonly learn that women are meant to be gatekeepers of sex, and that outside perceptions of how hard a woman has “fought off” unwanted sex is tied to her perceived complicity in sexual assault. Therefore, acknowledging a rape opens the victim up to a barrage of scrutiny.

 

Importantly, the study also discusses the low rate of reporting and the minimization of sexual violence as being related to the victim’s perception of the enforcing institution as an extension of the patriarchal apparatus. Enforcing institutions are part of the same culture that gives rise to sexual violence, and are additionally imbued with institutional or legal power. Girls and women may therefore be wary of the forensic interview setting as being hostile to their sexuality, sense of agency, or their decision to use alcohol or drugs. As a result, women may dismiss or play down instances of sexual violence as a way to build rapport and maintain their own credibility in the face of biased reception.

 

Unacknowledged rapes carry with them the threat of future victimization, and that can be costly to both the victim as well as the community. However, denial may also serve an environmentally protective role for the victim when their social context makes it costly to be a victim. It is therefore vitally important for educational institutions to not only ensure that students are aware of reporting policies and practices, but that the social context in which reporting is carried out is one in which victims will feel that they will be supported and believed.


The Dangers of Projecting Expectations onto Victims of Sexual Assault
Posted by On Friday, March 11, 2016

On an episode entitled “Anatomy of Doubt” producers of the NPR radio show This American Life teamed up with The Marshall Project and ProPublica to present a story of what can happen when well-meaning people make erroneous assumptions about how victims of sexual assault ought to behave after an attack. The episode recalls the experience of a young woman named Marie who was brutally raped in her home by an intruder. After the attack, Marie called her former foster parents and the police for help. Even though the police found and collected physical evidence of the assault at the scene, Marie’s detached and “flirtatious” behavior caused even those people closest to her to question her truthfulness. This ignited a cascade of doubt and disbelief that erupted into a second trauma for Marie and nearly landed her in jail.

The neurobiology of trauma involves a number of self-protective mechanisms that can produce disruptions in memory and emotional expression in the victim. The amygdala, or the part of the brain responsible for processing fear, interferes with memory consolidation when it is hyper-activated. This may account for lapses in memory or problems with recall in a victim of sexual violence. The body also produces opioids in response to trauma as a way to minimize pain—these endogenous opioids behave similarly to opiates like heroin, and can flatten affect and have adverse effects on memory consolidation. These effects are particularly prevalent for individuals like Marie who have been exposed to trauma during childhood. While complying with the Campus SaVE Act can help educate students on these matters, it is also vitally important for the general public to be aware of the possibility of such reactions in order to minimize incidents of re-traumatization.

The episode also highlights the way in which faulty interviewing techniques can coerce victims into retracting their statement. The police in charge of Marie’s case lacked experience in handling sexual assault cases and presumed that Marie was lying based solely on an inaccurate understanding of how traumatized people are supposed to behave. Their line of questioning was more befitting a suspect of a crime rather than a rape victim. By threatening Marie with the famously faulty polygraph test, they ensured her recantation. Recantations are usually counted as false reports, and those produced under coercive circumstances may therefore inflate the number of false reports. False rape reports are already disproportionately emphasized in the conversation around sexual assault reporting, and the social and legal consequences for reporters who have been determined to be lying are severe.

“Anatomy of Doubt” provides a compelling argument for believing victims. Victims of sexual violence can appear emotionless, carefree, or even cheerful directly following the attack. They may display flirtatious or sexual behavior toward responders, or giggle and laugh at unexpected times. None of these things alone should be taken as an indication that the victim is lying about having been assaulted.


Selling Safety: The Rise of Sexual Assault Prevention Products
Posted by On Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Since the 1990s, studies have found that roughly 1 in 5 women will experience some form of sexual assault while in college. Recent results from campus climate surveys have bolstered these numbers. In the past several years, people have been trying to fight this epidemic through many strategies ranging from increased legislation to prevention training.

In addition, companies have recently begun offering other novel solutions. Some are manufacturing wearable gadgets that alert authorities and select emergency contacts when an attack is about to occur. A group of college students is developing a nail polish that changes colors when dipped into a drink that’s been laced with certain date-rape drugs. Entrepreneurs are producing an array of fashionable jewelry that emits a loud alarm when the user pushes a button.

Below, you will find a list of some of the sexual assault prevention products on the market and how they work, followed by an analysis, criticisms, and common misconceptions about sexual assault.

iBall Andi Uddaan: This is a cellular device with a built-in “SOS” button that sends an alert message and phone call to five emergency contacts chosen by the user, posts a Facebook status with a pre-written message asking for help and gives the user’s GPS location (only if connected to the Internet), and emits a loud siren sound to ward off potential attackers.

Athena: Manufactured by Roar for Good, this transformable accessory can be worn as necklace pendant or clip onto clothing, a belt, or purse. The Athena is a “coin-sized personal safety alarm” and comes with an app that allows the wearer to customize their preferences. The device has a button that can sound an alarm “louder than a freight train” while sending a text message with the user’s location to a list of emergency contacts chosen by the user. If the button is held for three seconds longer, the alarm stays silent, but messages are still sent as long as an Internet connection is established. A portion of the company’s proceeds goes to educational programs.

Safelet: A bracelet that sends out alerts with the wearer’s location to the police and emergency contacts (known as “Guardians”) selected by the wearer—this happens when two buttons are pressed simultaneously. Once activated, the device will also call the police and activate the wearer’s cellular microphone, transmitting the sounds coming from the microphone to the police. The wearer can add contacts and security preferences through the Safelet app. The Safelet device operates by using a “secure Bluetooth Low Energy connection.”

First Sign: A hair clip with “built-in gyroscope and accelerometer to detect head impacts indicative of physical assault.” When pressed, the clip turns on a microphone that calls the police while recording the incident. The First Sign clip also emits an audible message when pressed in order to “deter the attacker.” If pressed accidentally, the wearer can access the First Sign app on their phone within 15 seconds to deactivate the false alarm. The First Sign clip uses Bluetooth and an Internet connection must be established in order for the device to work.

Cuff: This is a smart device that can be inserted into the manufacturer’s line of jewelry/accessories (such as a sport band, metal necklaces and bracelets, leather bracelets, and key chains). The device uses a phone app that allows the wearer to set their emergency contacts, and when activated, the Cuff sends the user’s emergency contacts a message. The Cuff device can be paired with any of their jewelry line products to change the look. However, the wearer can’t be more than 20-30 feet from their phone for the device to fully work, and their phone must be connected to the Internet.

Undercover Colors: A nail polish line that detects date rape drugs such as Rohypnol, Ketamine, Ecstasy, and other “roofies” by changing colors when a finger is dipped into a drink to “discreetly” stir. This method can alert the wearer of a spiked drink before they consume it.

It might be reassuring to know that more than pepper spray, mace, rape whistles, and tasers can be used to protect victims before, during, and after an assault. However, the very idea that such a number of up-and-coming devices are necessary is concerning in itself. While the thought of having an aid in sexual assault prevention is undoubtedly a good one, the need for these items is telling of how much of an issue sexual assault has become.

Though prevention gadgets are steps in a good direction, they are not solutions to stopping the act that calls for their existence. And for all the good these products attempt to achieve, they come with a fair amount of criticism:

  • Products such as the aforementioned and others put the burden of rape prevention on the potential victim, not the perpetrators. It is the victims who are going out of their way to obtain and use these products—and while it is a safe, smart thing to ensure one’s safety, perhaps education, accountability, prosecution, and practicing consensual sexual activity should take the forefront.
  • These products may reinforce myths about what sexual assault looks like—for example, a woman who was drugged by a stranger in a bar or was attacked while walking alone at night. While these kind of attacks do happen, research suggests that the vast majority of sexual assaults at college are acquaintance assaults (this is also true for assaults that occur outside of college).
  • Marketing these products to women leaves out male victims. According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey that polled college students living on or near campus, “twenty percent of women and 5 percent of men reported being sexually assaulted either by physical force or while incapacitated.” This survey and many others reveal that both men and women experience sexual assault.
  • These products are intended to be used before, during, or after a sexual assault has occurred—they do not guarantee that the act will be stopped, that the victim will be safe, or that the attacker will be caught.
  • While date-rape drugs such as roofies are sometimes used to facilitate sexual assault, most often, alcohol is the number one date rape drug.
  • Many of these devices also present some practical challenges: they assume the user already has a smartphone, and many of the devices require that a free mobile app be downloaded and connected to the product itself; for the fashion fashion/jewelry pieces, an accessory cover would be needed to better conceal the product; an Internet connection must also be established in order for the devices to correctly work.

Critics’ assertions that these devices misrepresent the nature of sexual assault and unfairly shift the burden to victims show that these devices cannot solve the problem without educational initiatives providing students the proper context.

Fortunately, many colleges, universities, and now high schools in select states require students to take sexual assault prevention programs or classes. With the well of information, definitions, statistics, and scenarios in these courses, the goal is to educate students about consent and sexual assault, leading to better decision-making and ultimately a safer environment.

These products can save lives, but they need to paired with the proper education and training. The goal is to prevent sexual assault, not just avoid it.


Legal Developments: Addressing Campus Sexual Assault in 2016
Posted by On Friday, January 22, 2016

The level of legislative activity to address campus sexual assault in 2015 reflects the national concern surrounding this problem. And the intense focus on Title IX compliance and prevention programs now includes K-12 schools. These signs indicate that the law will continue to evolve with new strategies to address campus sexual violence in 2016.

This post contains a rundown of significant legal developments in 2015 and what to watch for in 2016 that may have direct and indirect implications for preventing and handling cases involving sexual and interpersonal violence committed against students. For a more detailed discussion of recent state laws, download our white paper.

OCR Investigations

At the end of 2015, 159 colleges and universities and 63 K-12 schools were under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Title IX investigation tracker lists 243 investigations opened since the OCR’s 2011 Dear Colleague Letter. And the OCR’s 2016 budget was increased by $7 million for additional enforcement staff.

With a growing list of K-12 investigations, colleges and universities are not the only targets of Title IX complaints and OCR investigations. For example, Know Your IX, a non-profit organization founded by student survivor activists, provides a self-described “one-stop-shop, information-rich website” that has added a Title IX toolkit for high school students.

There is no question that the number of OCR investigations has grown since the OCR issued its 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, which Catherine Lhamon, Assistant Secretary of the OCR, told a Senate Committee is “an explanation of what Title IX means.”

Challenging the OCR’s investigatory authority, Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, last week sent a sharply worded letter to Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, John B. King, Jr. In his letter, Senator Lankford argues that the OCR guidance letters were not created through the notice-and-comment procedures required by the Administrative Procedure Act.

Therefore, Lankford requests “specific statutory and/or regulatory language that, in your view, the [2010 and 2011 Dear Colleague] letters interpret or construe . . . no later than February 4, 2016.” To the extent that they create compliance obligations beyond existing statutory or regulatory language, Lankford demands that “failure to adhere to the policies will not be grounds for inquiry, investigation, adverse finding, or rescission of federal funding.”

High School Prevention Programs

New federal and state laws acknowledge that prevention and awareness programs must start before students arrive on college and university campuses. On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA, S. 1177), which will start to take effect during this next school year. The ESSA allows public K-12 schools to use Title IV grant funds for training on safe relationship behavior, including affirmative consent and sexual assault prevention.

In addition, as of January 1, 2016, California public high schools must cover sexual and interpersonal violence and harassment awareness and prevention in their health education curricula.

In Michigan, both the House and the Senate have passed identical bills requiring public high schools to teach students affirmative consent standards. The bills have not yet been signed by the governor.

New Laws, Pending Bills, and ALI Guidelines

For higher education institutions, at least 29 state legislatures considered campus sexual assault legislation in 2015 (new state laws are discussed in our white paper), and the 114th Congress will continue its debate of four pending federal bills in 2016: the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), the Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency Campus Sexual Violence Act (HALT), the Safe Campus Act, and the Fair Campus Act. Each of these bills addresses how colleges and universities handle reports of sexual violence, and the co-sponsors of the CASA bill (turned into the “Senators of Steel” by Marvel) predict that its provisions will be included in the Higher Education Reauthorization Act when it comes up for a vote in 2016.

Recognizing this emerging maze of legislative solutions, the American Law Institute has assembled a team to help address the unique problems facing the higher education community in disciplinary proceedings. ALI describes its mission as “producing scholarly work to clarify, modernize, and otherwise improve the law.”

Members of the ALI team say they bring “a sense of expertise, professionalism, and balance to that kind of debate” and “can help take the politics out of a politicized issue.” The team includes college leaders, victim advocates, and legal experts, including an OCR lawyer. This project will create guidelines and best practices for addressing campus sexual assault to create a process that responds fairly and effectively to complaints. Suzanne Goldberg, a clinical professor of law and executive vice president for university life at Columbia University, and a primary author of the preliminary guidelines, says the ALI team is proceeding with “a sense of urgency.”

Meanwhile, state legislators grew impatient waiting for federal legislation, taking matters into their own hands. The recent NASPA report analyzed recent state action and identified four primary legislative policy themes:

  • defining affirmative consent
  • the role of local law enforcement
  • transcript notation
  • the role of legal counsel

For a list of important state legislative action in 2015 that will shape how campus sexual assault cases are handled in 2016 and beyond, download our white paper on new state laws and pending bills.


A Response from CampusClarity to the Campus Reform Article
Posted by On Tuesday, January 12, 2016

In response to the numerous questions CampusClarity received today regarding an article published in Campus Reform, we’ve published a detailed Q&A document that addresses the questions, comments, and concerns.

CampusClarity, a division of LawRoom, provides training to over 500 colleges and universities across the country. Think About It is our online training course based on extensive research and expert participation that educates students about sexual violence and substance abuse prevention. Presently, the course has been taken by over 1 million undergraduate and graduate students. Think About It helps schools meet their compliance requirements under Title IX and the Campus Save Act.

As part of Think About It, schools have the option of including surveys that ask students about their behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs regarding sex and substance use. Schools can use data from these questions to tailor campus programming to the unique needs of their student body.

While the course may be mandatory in some schools, the questions are not. Every question includes a “no comment” answer option that students can select if they do not wish to respond to the question. Individual students are not connected to their answers — the data are de-identified.

The following addresses many of the questions we received in response to the January 12th article.

Are USC students required to detail sexual history before registering for classes?

No. USC, like many other campuses, chose to require students to complete Think About It in order to register for classes, but students were not required to answer the survey questions, including those related to sexual history.

Schools have the option of including short surveys that are interspersed throughout the course. In these surveys, students are asked about their behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs regarding sexual activity and substance use. But students can choose not to answer these questions.

Are the questions mandatory?

No. Every question has a “no comment” option if students do not wish to answer.

Why are the questions asked?

By showing students’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors around intimacy and substance use, the data from these questions allow schools to better tailor their prevention programming to the unique needs of their student population.

Are students’ identities connected to their answers?

No. Answer data is de-identified and aggregated. No one can see how an individual student responded to the survey questions. School administrators can only see how students have answered in the aggregate. We take privacy very seriously.

You can read more about the personal questions and privacy in our white paper on the topic: http://www.lawroom.com/Brochure/TAI_questions.pdf

Is the training mandatory?

The Campus Save Act mandates that schools offer training to their students on sexual violence prevention. Additionally, in its Title IX FAQ, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights recommends schools offer “age-appropriate training to its students regarding Title IX and sexual violence” (J-4). We provide different versions of the course for graduate students, adult learners, and undergraduates.

In short, schools must offer the training but do not have to mandate the training. Many schools, however, do require students to complete it because of the importance of these issues to the health and well-being of their students.

Why do schools offer the training?

Schools offer training in order to help empower students to make safe and healthy choices around intimacy and substance use. The training also helps schools comply with Federal regulations, specifically Title IX and the Campus Save Act.

How is consent defined in the course?

State-specific legal definitions of consent to sexual activity and criminal sexual assault are included in the courses, so a student can read summaries of the relevant state laws, as well as the statutes themselves on a range of laws related to sexual violence.

In California, for instance, the page on consent includes both the criminal law definition and the affirmative consent standard most California colleges and universities are required by law to use in campus disciplinary proceedings involving sexual assault.

Including both of these definitions in the training helps students understand the difference between the affirmative consent standard in campus policies and criminal law definitions of consent to sexual activity that apply in a court of law. The training programs present both definitions to explain these different standards and put them in the proper context.

Providing legal definitions also helps schools comply with the Campus Save Act, which requires schools to inform their students of the definitions of stalking, dating violence, domestic violence, and sexual assault in the applicable jurisdiction. We maintain summaries of the relevant state statutes defining these terms for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and the applicable statutes are included in each school’s courses.

Schools also include their campus sexual misconduct policies in the course, which students must read and acknowledge before completing the course.

In addition, the course provides general guidelines to help students get and give consent. You can watch a video on consent from Think About It on Youtube here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laMtr-rUEmY

What if the discussion of consent is inconsistent with the schools’ policy?

Schools can customize the content of the course in order to fit their policy and campus culture.

All schools include their policy in the course, which students must read and acknowledge.

Does the course talk about how alcohol affects someone’s ability to give consent?

Yes it does.

This topic is important to discuss as is suggested both by research and guidance on Federal regulations.

For example, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights recommends in the Title IX FAQ  that training for students include information “on consent and the role drugs or alcohol can play in the ability to consent” (J-3).

Similarly, one of the primary conclusions of the Campus Sexual Assault Study completed in 2007 for the National Institute of Justice was to “[c]ombine sexual assault prevention education with alcohol and drug education programming” (xviii).

As indicated in the video linked to above, an individual who is incapacitated cannot give consent. This reflects most schools’ policies, many states’ laws, and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights definition of sexual violence in their Title IX FAQ: ” Sexual violence, as that term is used in this document and prior OCR guidance, refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent (e.g., due to the student’s age or use of drugs or alcohol, or because an intellectual or other disability prevents the student from having the capacity to give consent)” (emphasis added A-1).

(For more information see our blog post on the topic here.)

Does the course say if a man and woman are both drunk and have sex then the man is always to blame?

No it does not. And it is disturbing that someone could draw this conclusion from the course.

In the article, a student who took the course said the following: “In one scenario both the man and the woman were drunk but the video still blames the male for the assault. I found that a little confusing,”

It is deeply concerning that the student found this portion of the course confusing.

Here is a summary of the scenario the student is most likely referencing.

A man and a woman have been drinking together. Later they start kissing. The woman decides to stop and pushes the man away. She tells the man that she wants to go home because she is feeling sick from the alcohol she drank. The man convinces her to stay, she passes out, and the man then has sex with her while she is unconscious. This is rape. The woman is incapacitated from alcohol and is unconscious when the man has sex with her.

The reason the man is to blame is because he rapes her while she is unconscious. It does not matter that he has also been drinking. As mentioned in the course “being drunk doesn’t release anyone from legal or student conduct responsibility.”

Conclusion

We believe preventing sexual violence is an important and complex issue, and welcome feedback and suggestions.

To learn about the program used at USC and over 500 colleges and universities across the country click here and here.

If you have any questions please contact us at talkaboutit@campusclarity.com

If you are a member of the press, please contact us at press@lawroom.com

 


3 Predictions for Data Security and Higher Ed in 2016
Posted by On Tuesday, January 5, 2016

In tomorrow’s college classroom, data security training will sit front and center.

Technology is reinventing education, and schools are producing unprecedented amounts of data to teach and manage their students, staff, and faculty. Technology is already helping schools control costs, improve student retention, and personalize learning.

We can expect these trends to continue, especially as flipped classrooms and blended and online learning continue their rapid spread. Over 70% of academic leaders reported that online learning is critical to their institution’s long-term strategy, according to the Babson Survey Research Group. And though the hype around MOOCs (massive open online courses) has faded, they’re more popular than ever.

Further developments are on the horizon, including learning analytics, adaptive learning, and location intelligence.

These technologies are reshaping the learning and teaching process. But they also make colleges and universities attractive targets for hackers and make data breaches a bigger danger than ever.

Colleges and universities are in an unusual position when it comes to data security. Not only are they regulated by laws like FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), but they must also find a way to balance their commitment to academic freedom with the need to protect their data.

As David J. Shaw, the chief information security officer at Purdue University, told The New York Times, “A university environment is very different from a corporation or a government agency, because of the kind of openness and free flow of information you’re trying to promote.”

(Learn about higher education’s unique data security challenges in our data security white paper.)

Higher education leaders are certainly aware of the data security challenges they face. The Center for Digital Education recently surveyed higher education leaders about data security:

  • 72% think data breaches are one of their greatest concerns
  • 73% say cybersecurity is a high or very high priority among their other technology priorities
  • 70% expect spam and phishing to be a major threat in the next 12 months

Thinking about the growing role of technology (and data) in the classroom, here are three data security issues in higher education we expect to trend in 2016.

1.) More Data Will Mean More Problems

With new technologies come new concerns — especially around privacy and data security. Many emerging technologies rely on big data — so much data that Kathleen Styles, the Education Department’s chief privacy officer, recently called colleges and universities, “Data Factories.”

As Styles explains in a blog post on privacy and new uses of data, “The combination of new technologies and new uses of data create today’s cutting-edge privacy issues, including ‘Big Data,’ matching with wage data, data sharing in general, the use of analytics, cloud computing, MOOCs, and school use of web engagement tools.”

Higher education institutions create and consume a particularly broad range of information from educational, employment, and medical records to intellectual property, research data, and sensitive financial information.

Besides the privacy issues, all these data make colleges and universities attractive targets to hackers, hacktivists, and even state-sponsored cyberespionage.

The Ponemon Institute, which conducts independent research on data security, estimates that cybercrime costs the education industry an average of $3.89 million annually. Between 2010 and 2015, a total of 314 data breaches occurred at US educational institutions, exposing 7,852,750 records. In 2014 the education industry experienced 10% of total data breaches in the US, according to Symantec.

Privacy concerns around data collection forced one educational technology company to shut its doors in 2014, and in 2015 we saw a major university allegedly targeted by nation-state hackers for its research. We can expect more stories like these in 2016.

2.) BYOD Will Become Bring Your Own Everything

To promote the free flow of information, college and university networks often must accommodate numerous private devices — think of all the new students arriving each year with their smart phones, laptops, tablets, etc.

A survey conducted by Bradford Networks found that 85% of educational institutions have some form of BYOD policy (bring your own device). And these aren’t just for personal use: 52% of respondents said devices are integrated into the classroom experience.

Over 75% of surveyed institutions allowed faculty to use personal devices to access the school network, 72% allowed students, and 57.5% allowed all other staff and contractors to do the same.

The use of personal devices is so ubiquitous on campuses that one expert has suggested a new acronym: BYOE or Bring Your Own Everything.

And it looks like the current flood of devices is only priming the pump.

In its 2015 Horizon Report, The New Media Consortium (NMC), in collaboration with EDUCASE Learning Initiative, predicts schools will encourage more students to bring their own mobile devices into the classroom.

That’s just the near term! NMC expects wearable technologies to be classroom staples within the next two to three years and the internet of things to arrive in classrooms in the next four to five years.

Each device presents a potential security risk to an institution, a way for data to leak out or an avenue for malware to sneak in. Unsurprisingly, colleges and universities’ security performance drops during the academic school year with the influx of new students and their new devices.

It will be interesting to see how schools balance their desire to promote learning and the exchange of information with the need to secure their networks. One thing is certain: BYOE will be a challenge in 2016.

3.) IT Will Be Treated as a Behavioral Science

Most higher education leaders are confident in their security measures. What they report as their number one pain point is user adherence to policies.

In other words, users — not the technology — are the issue.

This situation isn’t unique to higher education. As we are fond of quoting, according to Marc Van Zadelhoff, the VP of IBM Security, 95% of data breaches or cyberattacks involve “mistakes by those with access to a company’s systems.”

But higher education’s unique balancing act of access and security can make technological solutions to data security particularly difficult to implement, forcing institutions to rely even more heavily on the good sense and cyber-hygiene habits of their employees and students.

Fortunately, schools can address employee habits and practices through training. These kinds of solutions may actually be well adapted to the higher education environment, since they can promote users’ sense of responsibility and autonomy. Online data security training, for instance, can help schools teach employees best practices while still respecting the free flow of information.

The human element in data security gained some prominence this year when Cisco released a new security manifesto. One of the manifesto’s core principles is that “security must be viewed as a ‘people problem’.”

The manifesto explains, “A technology-centric approach to security does not improve security; in fact, it exacerbates it. Technologies are merely tools that can enhance the ability of people to secure their environment. Security teams need to educate users…People, processes, and technology, together, must for the defense against today’s threats.” (See our post on CTOs and data security training for more.)

Or as Werner Boeing, the CIO of Roche Diagnostics, puts it, “People believe that IT is about technology, but it’s really a behavioral science — understanding the behaviors of your company’s staff, leaders, and customers — and facilitating the adoption of a new vision.”

In 2016, expect to see more discussion of data security as a people problem and the role of cybersecurity training as an essential complement to technological solutions.

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Alcohol Abuse or Alcohol & Abuse: The Complicated Relationship Between Alcohol and Sexual Assault on College Campuses
Posted by On Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Recent surveys and studies have shone light on the sexual assault epidemic on college campuses. They have reinforced the high number of college students who will experience sexual assault as well as the campus culture that often perpetuates an unsafe and unsupportive environment for potential victims and survivors. On December first, Dr. Thomas Plante published an article on Huffington Post titled, Sexual Assaults on College Campuses: Focus on Alcohol. This is just one of many pieces that argues that to combat sexual assault, colleges must combat alcohol use and abuse by their students. It is true that alcohol use is a very real problem on campuses. As Dr. Plante points out, around 20% of college students admit to binge drinking. Many students die from alcohol poisoning or alcohol related events every year, and “too many college students feel compelled to drink in excess while in college.”

As Sarah Hepola, author and former Salon editor, says, “College presidents have long considered alcohol to be one of the biggest problems they face on campus—the cause of traffic accidents, injuries, even death, not to mention a sampler plate of jackassery.” Hepola goes on to say, “Alcohol is also involved in a great number of campus sexual assault cases…However, alcohol is also a primary reason people dismissed the gravity of campus sexual assault for so long. “A bunch of drunk kids getting their kicks” was the carpet under which a great deal of real human pain was swept.”

While Dr. Plante’s claims that alcohol abuse is an issue on college campuses that needs to be addressed is extremely valid, and has validity in that it often has a strong association with sexual assaults, it should not be at the core of sexual assault prevention efforts. Cultural norms and beliefs stemming from sexism create an environment that perpetuates sexual assault. Focusing exclusively on alcohol can distort the message that perpetrators are responsible for their actions and inadvertently perpetuate misperceptions about the nature of sexual violence. Suggesting that alcohol is at the core of the sexual assault epidemic risks excusing the actions of someone under the influence of alcohol as simply bad behavior. It ignores the idea that a drunk perpetrator is still a perpetrator and a non-consenting drunk person is still non-consenting. Addressing the underlying rape culture is the only way to truly combat sexual assault.

One of the many problems associated with drinking is that it lowers people’s inhibitions. Many say that people are more likely to say and act like “their real selves” when under the influence of alcohol. A sober person can remind themselves that sexual assault is illegal and causes harm, but there is still something happening in their minds that allows sexual assault to even be an option. Drinking may bring these feelings to the surface and allow them to culminate in a way that they would not in a sober mind, but a broader rape culture is at fault for them existing in the first place.

Dr. Antonia Abbey’s research titled Alcohol-Related Sexual Assault: A Common Problem among College Students stresses the point by saying, “The fact that alcohol consumption and sexual assault frequently co-occur does not demonstrate that alcohol causes sexual assault.” Abbey goes further to say that, “The causal direction could be the opposite; men may consciously or unconsciously drink alcohol prior to committing sexual assault to have an excuse for their behavior.” While alcohol is often a factor in campus sexual assault, there is no research showing that there is a causational relationship between the two. Abbey continues to demonstrate this by pointing out that there may be personality traits that exist in individuals who both drink heavily and commit sexual assault, such as, “impulsivity, or peer group norms.”

Alcohol is certainly a part of that environment, but it does not have a causational relationship. Focusing on alcohol is like putting a bandage on a wound. It can have an impact on the aftercare of a gash, but it has nothing to do with the gash being created in the first place. Figuring out how to eliminate the things that cause the wound is not an easy feat. However, this must be the focus of sexual assault prevention. Everything else is just a bandage – a reaction to harm, which is helpful, but not a solution on its own.


Critically Acclaimed & Critically Accused: How the response to The Hunting Ground perpetuates rape culture
Posted by On Tuesday, November 24, 2015

This weekend, The Hunting Ground premiered on CNN.  This is the first time that the film has been broadcasted for a large public audience. The Hunting Ground is a documentary that shares the stories of sexual assault survivors from universities across the country. It not only focuses on the incidents themselves, but the aftermath of the assaults in which their institutions did little to nothing to remediate the situation, and oftentimes retraumatized the survivor by insinuating blame or not believing the survivor’s story.

The Hunting Ground connects the dots to show that campus rape is an epidemic, and that focusing on one individual story, or even one individual institution, isn’t doing justice to the issue. It also frankly discusses the corporatization of higher education and doesn’t shy away from the industrial components that interplay with campus sexual assault.

The film portrays much of what we know to be true about campus sexual assault. Many of the survivors who are featured discuss that the person who assaulted them was someone they knew. Many of the survivors also disclosed that they were hesitant to report through their campus and that they have yet to tell their families. Many survivors shared that the incident involved either members of athletics or Greek life. And sadly, nearly every survivor shared that their school’s response was lacking, harmful, and insufficient.

Unfortunately, the film also shows us something else that we know to be true: people are unwilling to believe survivors. Despite having a Rotten Tomatoes score of 92%, the media response to the film has been highly critical, with journals and newspapers staunchly attempting to disprove the stories of survivors, and by calling the film “inaccurate and incomplete,” “poorly substantiated,” and as “spreading myths.”

As found in the Association of American Universities climate survey results, less than a quarter of incidents are reported. The most common reason for not reporting sexual assault was that it was “not considered serious enough,” with high numbers also in feeling “embarrassed or ashamed” and “did not think anything would be done.”

When much of the public discourse around a film about campus sexual assault is disbelief and contention, what is to encourage survivors to report their assault? The Hunting Ground attempts – and succeeds – in showing the epidemic of campus rape, but ironically it is the response to it that succeeds in showing a broader rape culture that permeates beyond college campuses to our entire society.

Instead of discussing the broader implications of the vast amount of evidence and personal stories that The Hunting Ground presents, critics have narrowly focused on trying to disprove two of the most high-profile incidents presented. The acute simplification of focusing on these two cases, one involving a prominent college football quarterback and one involving an elite law school, does a few things. First, it misses the point of the film. By focusing on a couple cases, the representation of campus sexual assault as an epidemic is overlooked. By attempting to prove that the stories presented are inaccurate or incomplete, critics are perpetuating the societal problem of the overestimation of false rape reports. For those who are interested, the actual percentage of false reporting of rape tends to fall between 2 and 8%, which aligns with the rate of false accusations for other felonies.

Second, the narrow focus on challenging the two most high-profile cases replicates some of the main institutional problems that the film details. Even though there seems to be strong public support for the film itself – as displayed by the acclaim from Sundance, Entertainment Weekly, Metacritic, and Rotten Tomatoes – media and public discourse have tried to coopt the story by focusing on a sliver of what is truly an epidemic. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the majority of attention has been focused on these two cases; the two where the American society has the most to lose. There seems to be a willful ignorance that is reinforcing the sense that when the accused institution or individual is high-profile, with high societal regard and yielding high profits, the public is predisposed to doubt the survivor. Not only is the survivor unlikely to be believed, but there is a heavy investment in advocating for the innocence of the accused, even going as far as to blaming and shaming the accuser. When the fault in a sexual assault case lands upon a person or institution that is highly funded, positively regarded, a national symbol of success, etc., there is little chance that the survivor will come out on top.

But maybe there is hope. Is any attention good attention when it comes to these issues? The survivors who present their stories in The Hunting Ground have decided to put the cause before themselves. They have become activists and have sacrificed their personal well-being to do so. The individuals seen in the film have received threats, are constantly being questioned and challenged, and in many cases are being portrayed in negative light. However, they have also forced the issue of campus rape into the national headlines. They have put the rape epidemic on the map and are forcing the media and public to take note. As campus administrators, invested community members, and social justice educators, we owe something to these, and all, survivors. An easy way to remember how to support survivors is through the acronym HEAL: Honor, Empower, Accept, and Listen. The following screen shots from Think About It are a good baseline for how to respond when someone discloses sexual assault. If you hear people challenging the stories of the survivors in The Hunting Ground, remind them of these suggestions.

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Campus Climate Surveys: A tool for creating anti-racist policies and procedures
Posted by On Thursday, November 12, 2015

This past month has been ripe with conversation around race and racism on campus. Articles in the Chronicle, Huffington Post, Washington Post, and many others have detailed racism at colleges and universities. Student Activism has put racial microaggressions, incidents of blatant racism, and institutionalized racism into the media and in many cases has already led to action by administration.

Two years ago, the Black Student Union at the University of Michigan started the #BBUM, or Being Black at U of M, campaign to bring awareness to the experiences of students of color on campus. This campaign received national attention and coincided with a list of demands to administration for improving the campus climate for students of color, and specifically Black and African American students, on campus.

Similar events have taken place at the University of Missouri (Mizzou) and Yale over the past few weeks and student solidarity seems to be spreading to campuses around the country. While the situations at Mizzou and Yale have played out differently, the student activists are responding to similar frustrations with ongoing racism that has been left unaddressed by the school. Students are getting fed up with their institutions claiming “diversity” and “inclusivity” when their lived experiences tell them otherwise. Students are getting fed up with leaders not taking racism on campus seriously. And students are getting fed up with acts of blatant racism receiving no repercussion.

What does campus racism have to do with the campus climate around sexual assault? A lot. Campus climate is holistic in that it defines how students experience their time at a school. However, it has many different facets. Lately, we have been focusing on campus climate and how it relates to sexual assault (including sexual violence, sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, and dating/relationship violence). The racial climate on campuses definitely plays into how students perceive the climate around sexual assault.

If a student does not feel included, safe, or welcomed on campus, if a student does not feel supported by administrators, if a student does not feel a sense of community, if a student does not see faces who look like them in positions that matter, if a student is struggling every day just to survive in a space that is stacked against them, what is to make them want to report? Or even if they want to, what is to make them feel safe reporting?

Similarly, if the perpetrator of an assault was a student of color, reporting can be an especially complicated decision. If reporting means giving another reason for people of color to look like criminals or perpetrators of violence, survivors might be hesitant to report due to the potential harm to their community – perhaps the only community they feel a part of on campus.

So what does all of this mean? Sexual assault education, response, and policies are not one-size-fits-all. A survivor-centered approach needs to take into consideration the unique experiences of each survivor, including how their culture, community, and identities intersect with that experience. The Department of Justice suggests that a “culturally relevant, survivor centered approach” needs to have the following components:

  • Is grounded in the experiences of all survivors on campus. This requires the campus to understand not only the dynamics of the crimes, but the nuances that each crime presents and how these crimes are experienced by diverse groups of survivors on campus.
  • Takes into account cultural contexts in order to better understand the survivor’s experience and how this may affect such actions like a survivor’s decision not to report or seek services.
  • Is flexible and adaptable to the needs of survivors so they are not re-traumatized by the campus’s efforts.
  • Prevents the creation of processes, protocols and systems that support institutional interests over survivor’s needs.

We’ve previously written how race and ethnicity are depicted in Think About It, but this is just the beginning of thinking about how sexual assault prevention and response work can be anti-racist. Last year at NASPA, a session titled “Considering Students of Color in Sexual Assault Prevention” by Luoluo Hong, Mark Houlemard, Ross Wantland, and Patricia Nguyen discussed using a social justice framework when thinking about sexual assault on college campuses. To do this, it is imperative that administrators recognize that racism and sexism are “interlocking systems of oppression” and doing anti-sexism work also means doing anti-racism work. One of my main takeaways from this session was when Hong suggested replacing the word “students” in your sexual assault policies with “students of color.” And then ask yourself: Does the policy still apply? Is it realistic and comprehensive? Are students of color actually considered in the voices of victims and perpetrators? Most importantly, how is your sexual assault prevention work anti-racist?

How does this relate to Climate Surveys? As we previously wrote, Sexual Assault Campus Climate Surveys are being considered a “best practice response to campus sexual assault.” One of the most beneficial usages for climate survey data is being able to sort and filter it based on demographics like class standing, gender, sexual orientation, and race. When you administer your campus climate survey, pay special attention to the perceptions and experiences of students of color. Compare the experiences of white students and students of color for questions about reporting sexual assaults, perceptions of campus safety, and bystander behaviors. Reporting numbers have been low across campuses (2-5%) when participants were asked if they reported the assault through official school systems. This data needs to be cross-tabulated with different demographics to isolate data about how race impacts perceptions and experiences with sexual assault. Climate surveys are a great tool to gauge racial disparities on your campus and can lead to creating policies and procedures that are anti-racist.