Blog

Author: Joel Wacks

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, June 12, 2015

A new survey emphasizes the importance of interactive training, an in-depth examination of Title IX as it applies to intimate partner violence, and a look at the human toll of lengthy OCR investigations.

New Study Illustrates the Need for Interactive Training

It’s well-known that anti-sexual violence training is not just required by law but a crucial aspect of campus prevention efforts. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all training is equally effective. A new study from the University of New Hampshire’s Prevention Innovations Research Center demonstrates that students asked to interact during prevention training—in this case by taking part in a 20-minute conversation about the material they had just covered—were more likely to retain and process information about the school’s resources and policies. Another group of students was read the policies but did not discuss them afterwards, a third group was told they could watch an optional video in which the policies were read aloud, and a fourth group, used as a control, received no education. Students who were read the policies aloud but did not discuss them later showed improved learning, though not as good as that shown by students whose training included an interactive element. Over 70% of students provided with optional video opted not to watch it, and showed no greater improvement than the control group that received no training.

Domestic Violence, Colleges, and Title IX

As we’ve discussed in this space in the past, many activists and experts expect (and hope) that the enormous amount of attention currently directed at sexual assault on campus, and school’s obligation to address it under Title IX, will soon expand to include an equally pressing issue—intimate partner violence at colleges and universities. This article from BuzzFeed delves into the issue more deeply, pointing out that college-aged women are more likely than any other age group to experience intimate partner violence, talking to young women whose educations were disrupted, diminished, and in some cases ended by the trauma they experienced as victim/survivors of domestic violence, examining the legal reasoning behind a school’s Title IX obligation to address intimate partner violence, and taking a look at what schools could do to improve their support for students who have experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner.

Long OCR Investigations Take a Toll on Complainants

Another story we’ve been following is the increasing length of OCR investigations. This piece from US News puts a human face on the many problems associated with an investigation that takes years to complete, profiling complainants whose cases triggered investigations that may have brought sweeping change to their school’s policies—but only long after they themselves had graduated. As Wendy Murphy, an advocate, attorney, and adjunct professor of sexual violence law, says in the article, “You can’t fix someone’s hostile education environment if they’ve graduated by the time you announce there was a problem.” The article also delves into the reasons for the lengthy investigations, which include skyrocketing rates of complaints, a badly understaffed OCR, and a new (widely heralded) approach to investigations, which takes the most macroscopic look at a school’s culture as opposed to focusing narrowly on the case in question.

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, June 5, 2015

The University of San Francisco adopts an innovative new reporting tool, an in-depth look at the facts of false rape reports, and a look back at gains made by student activists over the past year.

USF Launches Online Reporting Tool Callisto

A while back we reported on a new online reporting tool, Callisto, whose proponents believed could dramatically improve the experience of victim/survivors who wanted to report their assaults. Now, for the first time, a university has made plans to use Callisto to allow its students to report sexual violence. The school in question is the University of San Francisco, an institution which has taken the lead on sexual violence prevention in the past, notably collaborating with CampusClarity to produce the first Think About It program. According to USF Vice Provost of Student Life Peter Novak, Callisto can “really change culture” for reporting on the USF campus. The app, which was developed by nonprofit Sexual Health Innovations, has numerous features that could be helpful for a victim/survivor of sexual assault, including the ability to make a time stamped report that they can choose to send in later or if the same perpetrator is named in a subsequent report.

The Cold, Hard Facts of False Rape Reports

It is sometimes claimed that false rape reports could represent anywhere from 1.5% to 90% of the total number of reported rapes. While that range—all but meaningless in its width—may have once represented the extent of our knowledge about the prevalence and nature of false rape reports, today numerous studies have provided a much clearer picture of the nature of this particular problem. This piece from Vox takes a look at studies that took a more rigorous approach to determining whether a report was false or not, either by looking at reports from police who had been trained on the definition of a false report or by investigating the facts of a case to determine whether the evidence did indeed suggest a false report. These studies, taken together, support the growing consensus amongst those who follow issues of sexual violence that false reports account for between 2% and 8% of total reports of rape. They also reveal some interesting, potentially important trends in those false reports. Nearly 80% of false reports “fit the definition of an ‘aggravated rape’”—one involving a weapon, multiple assailants, or injury to the victim/survivor. Almost 50% of false reports described the perpetrator as a stranger as opposed to an acquaintance. Most reports were filed within a day of the alleged incident. According to one researcher, false rape reports were more likely to provide a “clear and coherent” timeline of the attack. These facts suggest that individuals who make false rape reports tend to stick to a narrative based on common misperceptions about how most rape occurs. It also suggests that many of the features of a report traditionally seen as potential “red flags” of a false claim—a delayed report, a confused and confusing story, situations involving intoxications or perpetrators known by the victim/survivor—may in fact be just the opposite.

Big Gains for Activists in 2015

Despite the numerous stories we cover in this space about the work that still needs to be done, there have been real successes over the past few years for those working to prevent campus sexual violence. This piece from the Huffington Post covers notable successes of a very important player in this fight—student activists. These include efforts to improve campus safety and school policies, the successes of the “It’s On Us” campaign, and reforms made by schools at the behest of student activists.

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 29, 2015

More states are considering “Yes Means Yes” laws, and the five things you need to know about climate surveys.

More States Consider Affirmative Consent Bills

We’ve reported extensively on California’s “Yes Means Yes” law, which requires colleges and universities that participate in state student financial aid programs to adopt a definition of consent as an “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” At the time, we described California as being “at the forefront of addressing a difficult societal problem with a controversial new law.” Now, as expected by our team of legal analysts, other states are following California’s lead with affirmative consent laws of their own. Connecticut’s Senate has passed a similar bill already—if the law is approved by the House and signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy, Connecticut will become the second state with an affirmative consent law. A movement in favor of such a law is under way in Pennsylvania as well, with some schools in that state having adopted an affirmative consent definition without a legislative mandate.

What You Need to Know About Climate Surveys

It is generally agreed that mandatory climate surveys are coming. What does your institution need to know to be prepared? This article from Inside Higher Ed provides a useful cheat sheet, listing five things you should know about mandatory climate surveys. They include the likelihood that such surveys will be required by law, the fact that surveys are already being designed and deployed at various campuses, the caveat that participation will pose unique challenges, what remains unknown about how the surveys will be utilized, and the possibility that climate surveys will reveal “blind spots” in a school’s prevention efforts. The notalone.gov website provides information about how to plan and conduct a climate survey, as well as a sample “empirically informed survey.”

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Think About It Updates
Posted by On Thursday, May 28, 2015

 

Changes are coming to Think About It! We’ve made a number of additions and amendments in response to new research, updated regulations, and of course feedback from our users and clients. These changes will ensure the course is compliant with new laws and maintain our commitment to training built for and with our users. Many of the changes are small – minor revisions or tightening up the design – but some are more substantial. Below is a list and explanations of the major changes in our 2015 Think About It update. We have organized them into two broad categories: compliance updates and content updates.

Compliance Updates

A lot has changed in the four years since we started developing Think About It, including new regulations and laws at the state and federal levels. When the Campus SaVE Act passed in 2013, we added new content, and we regularly update the state laws in our courses. For the current update we implemented a more comprehensive set of changes based on the Department of Educations’s Title IX FAQ document and the final Campus SaVE Act regulations. Below are the major changes:

Understanding a survivor’s reactions – We added an interaction illustrating the effects of trauma on survivors of sexual assault. This addition was something we included in our seven month follow up course, “The Way Forward,” because we felt it was important to help students understand the science behind survivors’ sometimes counterintuitive response to trauma. However, the page also helps satisfy new guidance on student training requirements for Title IX compliance.

SurvivorReaction

Title IX – It is important that students understand the range of protections against sexual violence available to them. We added a new tabbed page explaining that Title IX prohibits sex discrimination and harassment as well as retaliation against someone who complains about or participates in sexual misconduct proceedings. In addition, the page provides contact information for the school’s Title IX office and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Conduct Proceedings – We replaced the old “Disciplinary Hearings” page with a new “Conduct Proceedings” page, based on new Title IX guidance and Campus SaVE Act regulations. The page provides detailed information about how to report sexual misconduct or find confidential resources, and a school’s required disciplinary procedures.

Analyzing Unwelcome Sexual Conduct – We added two new pages explaining what constitutes sexual harassment. These pages explain quid pro quo sexual harassment and how to analyze whether unwelcome sexual conduct creates a hostile environment.

Interim Measures – A new page called “Interim Measures” explains the range of protective measures that may be available for victims of sexual misconduct.

Retaliation Case Study – In order to help consolidate the new information we’ve included around sexual harassment, we added a new interaction that asks students to apply their knowledge of retaliation to a realistic scenario. The scenario also illustrates how Title IX protects students against retaliation.

RetaliationScenario

Resources – Students must have access to information about local and campus resources as well as reporting procedures at their school. We have changed the organization of the resources and created new documentation to better guide schools on what information to provide for inclusion in their courses.

Content Updates

WCAG 2.0 Accessibility – Accessibility is one of our clients’ highest priorities, so naturally it’s one of our highest priorities too. The 2015 version of Think About It is fully accessible HTML5 technology (WCAG 2.0 AA) and tablet supported.

Course Reorganization ­– Talking to clients and reading student feedback, we decided to reorder the course in a way that seemed more natural and helped the sections to reinforce each other. In the new course we’ve moved “Healthy Relationships” right after “Sex in College.” Placing them next to each other will help students see the connections between these important topics. The new course order is 1.) Prologue, 2.) Sex in College, 3.) Healthy Relationships, 4.) Partying Smart, 5.) Sexual Violence, 6.) Epilogue. We rewrote the section introductions and summaries in order to reflect this new order.

Prologue – In the prologue, we updated content about the prevalence of sexual violence against female college students and added information about sexual violence against male college students. The new information was drawn from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ special report “Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995-2013.”

Pressure & Expectations – Think About It encourages students to think critically about the cultural and social pressures that influence their behaviors and attitudes. This kind of critical reflection helps students become more self-aware, empowering them to make safer, more informed decisions. We strengthened this approach by replacing “Elements of the Hook Up,” which was an informational page, with a new page that pushes students to reflect on the institutional, societal, and individual pressures that shape beliefs and attitudes around intimate behavior.

Alcohol and Identity – We replaced “Drinking and College Culture” with a new “Alcohol & Identity” page. The two pages are similar in purpose: both help students reflect on the cultural and social factors that influence their attitudes towards alcohol. Since individual schools’ cultures vary greatly, we expanded to focus to a broader set of issues while achieving the same learning objective.

Systemic Problems – As part of a comprehensive approach to sexual violence prevention, Think About It begins by addressing the college culture around intimacy. We include a video of interviews with students about college hook-up culture. The video confronts student misperceptions about how much their peers are hooking up as well as gender stereotypes, such as double standards. To better reach these goals, we shortened the video to focus its message and rewrote the feedback to the follow-up Insights Question.

Cyberstalking – Research and client feedback revealed the growing role of social media in stalking and bullying cases. To better inform students of how perpetrators use social media to stalk victims, we replaced the real stalking cases in Think About It with cyberstalking cases.

Relationship Violence – When students think about abusive relationships, many of them only think of physical abuse. But there are other kinds of abuse. To help students recognize the range of abusive behavior, we replaced the “Cycle of Abuse” page with a new page covering different types of “Relationship Violence.”

The Drug Deal – We heard from students and clients that they wanted to learn more about prescription drug abuse, which they perceived to be a growing problem on many campuses. In order to help address this request, we reworked the “Drug Deal” interaction to include more information on prescription drug abuse. We also included a few social norming questions, asking students about their peers’ substance use. We based these questions on data from national surveys. These questions will help dispel students’ misconceptions about drug abuse on their campuses.

Stages of Acquaintance Assault – We expanded content on responding to acquaintance assault to include information from Dr. Rebecca Campbell’s research on the neurobiology of many victims of sexual assault. We have also added a new page on the effects of trauma on survivors of sexual assault (see Compliance Updates).

Sources & Citations – We updated our sources and citations page to provide a more comprehensive list of the sources we consulted when building and updating the course and to direct interested students to resources for further research.

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 22, 2015

A new study reveals a sexual assault epidemic at one school in New York, Huffington Post publishes a list of schools under Title IX investigation for sexual harassment, and U.S. News looks at what’s working and what still needs to be done in the fight against campus sexual assault.

New Study Published on the Prevalence of Sexual Assault

We’ve written extensively about the debate over the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses, and the need for more data about the rate at which college students are victimized by sexual violence. Now, a new study published by the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests there is at least one upstate New York university where over 18% of women will become victims of rape or attempted rape by the end of their freshman year. Rape was defined as “vaginal, oral, or anal penetration using threats of violence or use of physical force, or using the tactic of victim incapacitation.” 15% of the women surveyed were victims of completed or attempted rape while they were incapacitated, and a further 9% were victims of completed or attempted rape by force. While the survey’s small sample size means that it will not be putting the debate over the nation-wide prevalence of sexual assault to rest, it serves as further evidence of the desperate need to address college campus rapes.

Schools under Title IX Investigation for Sexual Harassment Cases

The Department of Education’s OCR has been disclosing the names of schools under Title IX investigation for failing to properly adjudicate sexual assault cases for some time. What they haven’t done, until now, is release the names of schools under Title IX investigation for mishandling sexual harassment cases. Now, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Huffington Post, that list of schools is available—click the link above to see it on their website. The Huffington Post makes a strong argument for the relevance of this information to current and prospective students of the listed institutions, pointing out that besides the impact harassment itself has on a student’s well-being and learning environment, such behavior is “inextricably linked” to sexual assault.

Sexual Assault: What’s Working, What Work Still needs to be Done

This piece from US News and World Report takes a look back at some of the efforts to combat sexual assault we’ve seen over the past few years. While the article highlights impressive gains, especially in the arena of increased awareness, it also points out that there is much work that still needs to be done. The piece calls for ongoing training programs that make an actual effort to change campus culture, as opposed to brief sessions intended only to fulfill a legal requirement, and for colleges “to take a more comprehensive approach to addressing sexual assault, rather than a piece-by-piece approach.”

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 15, 2015

For this week’s roundup we have the results of three new studies of the causes, prevalence, and consequences of binge drinking.

Brain Protein Appears to Block Binge Drinking

A brain protein called GIRK3 (a member of the “G protein-gated inwardly rectifying potassium channel” (GIRK) family) may play an important role in moderating binge drinking in mice, according to researchers from The Scripps Research Institute. Based on evidence that the GIRK family can be directly activated by alcohol and the knowledge that the specific protein in question, GIRK3, modulates the effect of drugs such as GHB and cocaine, researchers removed GIRK3 in lab mice then exposed them to alcohol. They observed that the modified mice were more likely to drink to the point of intoxication when given access to ethanol for just two hours a day, a condition meant to mimic a human happy hour (or college party.) These results suggest one possible avenue for pharmaceutical research aimed at addressing binge drinking.

New Study Reveals where Binge Drinking is Most Prevalent

A new study published by the American Journal of Public Health reveals which American counties have the highest rates of binge drinking and heavy drinking amongst adults 21 and over. Heavy drinking, defined as more than two drinks a day for men and more than one a day for women, was most prevalent in Menominee County in Wisconsin, and least common in Madison County, Idaho. Binge  drinking, defined as more than 5 drinks for men and 4 for women in about 2 hours, was most common in Esmeralda County, Nevada, and least common in Hancock County, Tennessee, where just 2.4% of drinking-age adults partook in binge drinking. Overall, the areas with the highest rates of problem drinking and drinking in general were New England, the West coast, and northern parts of the West and Midwest. Click the link above to see maps of problem drinking by county.

Binge Drinking Permanently Damages Developing Brains

Finally, if anyone doubted the dangers binge drinking poses to college students, a new study confirms that the dangers of heavy drinking lie not just in reckless decisions and alcohol poisoning when a student is intoxicated, but also in damage done to the brain that will linger—permanently. Research conducted on lab rats suggests that binge drinking creates permanent, negative changes in the developing brain. Since brain development in humans continues into the mid-twenties, these findings have sobering implications for the consequences of college binge drinking. Rats given alcohol while still in rodent adolescence had impaired memory and learning ability.

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 8, 2015

For this week’s roundup we have two different articles focusing on different aspects of the data released last Tuesday by the Department of Education and a list of seven things to know about CASA from the National Law Review.

Good News: The Number of Reported Sexual Assaults is Up

The data released by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Federal Student Aid office (FSA) last Tuesday in response to a request from Senators Barbara Boxer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Tim Kaine, confirmed a trend we’ve noted earlier —the number of reported sexual assaults on college campuses has been and continues to increase dramatically. In 2009, 3,300 assaults were reported. In 2013, there were over 6,000 reports. As we and others have covered extensively, this is a positive development in the fight against campus sexual violence, suggesting that increased awareness has made students feel more comfortable reporting incidents of sexual violence than they did in the past. However, as pointed out by this article from the Christian Science Monitor, the number of reported assaults still trails far behind the numbers reported in anonymous surveys, indicating there is still much work to do.

Bad News: The Length of OCR Investigations is Also Up

One unfortunate side effect of the federal government’s aggressive efforts to address campus sexual violence is a dramatic increase in the average length of Title IX investigations. The same report discussed in the above story reveals that the average OCR investigation now takes 1,469 days—around four years, meaning that even a student who filed a complaint as a freshman would graduate before the investigation was resolved. As this piece from Bloomberg Business points out, there are serious consequences of an investigation dragging on that long—solutions to the problems that led to the complaint are delayed, the facts of the pertinent cases become more difficult to ascertain, and victim/survivors are denied closure. However, as the renewed focus on sexual assault leads to more and more complaints and investigations, the OCR has seen its budget cut — reducing its full-time staff from 1,148 to 544 between 1980 and 2014 — contributing to delays and a backlog of cases.  The President’s budget proposal and Senators Kaine, Boxer, and Gillibrand have called for increased funding for the OCR.

The National Law Review Tells You What You Need to Know About CASA

If you follow this blog regularly you’ll have seen this analysis of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, the proposed law with bipartisan support that would introduce new, more stringent regulations for how colleges and universities handle sexual harassment and violence. The article above, published by the National Law Review, highlights seven aspects of the proposed law you should be aware of, including increased fines, a Campus Climate Survey requirement, and broader reporting requirements.

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

CampusClarity Partners with Kappa Delta Rho
Posted by On Thursday, May 7, 2015

CampusClarity today announced that it will be partnering with national fraternity Kappa Delta Rho to provide anti-sexual violence and substance abuse training to 40 Kappa Delta Rho chapters at colleges and universities across the country.

CampusClarity’s Think About It program is a three-part interactive online course that fulfills the training requirements of Title IX and the Campus SaVE Act. It has been used to meet these requirements and educate students, faculty and staff at over 300 institutions, including other national Greek organizations. Think About It’s cutting-edge design and interactivity has been recognized with a Gold Stevie business award for best online training and a NASPA Gold Excellence Award for Violence Education and Prevention for the University of San Francisco.

“The “Think About It” program will be fully implemented in this upcoming academic year as part of our Legion Program, which is a total member education program designed to provide leadership skills and knowledge to our Brothers that will allow them to lead successfully in their communities,” said Kappa Delta Rho Executive Director Joe Rosenberg.

Kappa Delta Rho was founded May 17, 1905 at Middlebury College. Since then it has initiated more than 29,000 members. “Kappa Delta Rho is an organization characterized by devotion to respect for others and honor above all,” Rosenberg said. “Our national leadership is committed to upholding the high standards our fraternity has always espoused.  One facet of this commitment is reinforcing our values of honor and respect in educating our undergraduate membership in the area of sexual violence and harassment prevention. The Think About It program represents a deepening of that commitment.”

“We are very proud to partner with Kappa Delta Rho. Through conversations with their leadership in the development of this partnership, it became clear to us that we shared a common commitment to sexual violence and substance abuse prevention education,” said LawRoom CRO, Preston Clark.

More About CampusClarity

LawRoom is the leading cloud-based compliance training provider for many of the fastest growing tech companies in the Bay Area, as well as many of the top universities across the country. LawRoom delivers award-winning employee and student training courses through its easy-to-use online platform to help corporations and universities meet federal and state compliance requirements.

In 2011, LawRoom partnered with the University of San Francisco to build an online harm-reduction course for students on alcohol, drugs, and sexual assault under a new brand, CampusClarity. In collaboration with USF’s Division of Student Life, LawRoom spent 18 months developing the course in consultation with various academic departments and with over 40 student focus groups. In early 2013, LawRoom launched Think About It, which is today used by over 300 colleges and universities across the country. Over 500,000 students, faculty, and staff will train with LawRoom in 2015.

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 1, 2015

Why prevention efforts need to start as early as high school, the University of California’s response to the California State Auditor’s review and OCR investigations, and Bud Light retracts an ill-considered slogan.

Sexual Violence Starts in High School—Prevention Must Too

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 44% of sexual assaults are committed when the victim is not yet 18. This piece in the Huffington Post by writer and activist Soraya Chemaly makes an important point: Clearly sexual assault does not begin in college. Prevention efforts shouldn’t either. Chemaly goes on to outline other alarming statistics about the young ages of both victim/survivors and perpetrators and points to a number of horrific rape cases involving high school-aged victims and perpetrators to make her case that high schools can and must do more to address sexual violence. She also outlines some of the obstacles to that seemingly obvious step, including the lack of available resources and discomfort of having a conversation about these difficult topics with teenagers. Nevertheless, Chemaly stresses beginning prevention as early as possible is crucial not only to protect American high schoolers but also to provide them with the tools they need to protect themselves when they leave home for college.

How the UC System is Starting to Address It’s Sexual Violence Problem

This piece from USA Today follows up on the University of California in the midst of OCR investigations of several of the state’s largest campuses, including UCLA and UC Berkeley, and nearly a year after the California State Auditor released their report on the UC system’s sexual assault practices. The article covers the background of the report and investigations, focusing on the efforts of student activists in filing a Clery Act complaint and Title IX claims against UC Berkeley. It also reports on what the UC system has done to address the inadequacies which led to the investigations and were covered by the CSA report. These changes include mandatory sexual violence prevention training, the hiring of confidential survivor advocates, and a survivor resource specialist. However, university officials and activists alike stress how much more work remains if the UC system is to do all it can to prevent sexual violence and support its victim/survivors.

Bud Light Corrects a Thoughtless Slogan

According to a poorly thought-out slogan featured on new packaging, Bud Light is “the perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.” It didn’t take long for Reddit and Twitter users to point out what apparently slipped past everyone at Anheuser-Busch: The ugly way that particular slogan recalls the connection between intoxication and sexual assault, and especially the way alcohol can and is used as a weapon by perpetrators against their victims. To the company’s credit, an apology was issued swiftly and the offending slogan won’t be printed again. Still, the whole episode is an important reminder of the need to consider language and how it affects culture and behavior.

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, April 24, 2015

As we approach the end of this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we have two announcements related to the annual event and speculation that a new study might shine more light on the prevalence of sexual violence on American campuses.

White House Blog Post on SAAM

The current White House has been particularly active on the issue of campus sexual assault, launching the “It’s On Us” campaign as part of an overall initiative to reduce sexual violence at institutions of higher education. For sexual assault awareness month, the White House has publicized the accomplishments of the “It’s On Us” campaign, including a recent appearance by Vice President Biden. Those include 600 It’s On Us events, 300 campus It’s On Us student campaigns, 200,000 It’s On Us pledges taken, and partnerships with the likes of Funny or Die and Pandora.

DOJ and DOE SAAM Statement

The Department of Justice and Department of Education took a different route, recognizing SAAM by publishing a blog post that explained the multi-pronged approach for addressing campus sexual assault. Specifically, the post weighed in on an often-asked and somewhat fraught question: Why are schools investigating crimes, which should fall under the jurisdiction of the local police force? The post points out that college administrators are required by civil rights laws to provide a safe and supportive learning environment to victim/survivors of sexual assault. Law enforcement, on the other hand, handles criminal justice matters.

Could the AAU Climate Survey Shed More Light on the Prevalence of Assault in College?

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. The commonly cited statistic that 1 in 5 female college students will be assaulted before graduating is often attacked by critics who maintain that the real number is much lower. Others suggest that the actual number may be even higher. Of course, such a controversy is possible mostly because of the lack of empirical data surrounding sexual assault. Now, some people are hoping a new survey from the American Association of Universities could change that. The above piece from Business Insider speculates that the new survey, which will be made available to 800,000 students at 27 institutions, will provide the raw data necessary to better understand the prevalence of sexual assault, and hopefully improve efforts to fight it. The AAU climate survey also has its critics, including a group of researchers who claim that the survey “is proprietary and therefore not available for scientific examination” and that AAU plans to release aggregated data instead of individual campus data needed for comparison.

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone