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bystander intervention

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Thursday, July 2, 2015

This week the Campus SaVE Act final regulations officially go into effect, the role of judges in campus hearings, and new research on bystander intervention.

The VAWA/Campus SaVE Act Final Regulations Go into Effect

Over two years ago, on March 7, 2013, President Obama signed the Campus SaVE Act into law as part of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA). The Campus SaVE Act increased the Annual Security Report crime reporting categories, and requires colleges and universities receiving federal funds to provide student and employee awareness training on campus sexual violence.
This week, VAWA’s final regulations went into effect after several months of negotiated rulemaking, and request for public comments . While the final regulations have only just gone into effect, colleges and universities have been expected to make good faith efforts to comply with these new requirements in the interim (). Compliance now requires schools to follow the letter and not just the spirit of the law. This Huffington Post article provides a convenient breakdown of what schools must do this year to comply with the regulations and a brief discussion of its significance. Also, see our Campus SaVE Act compliance checklist and rundown of the final regulations, or review our summary of additional requirements under new state legislation.

Should Judges Be Overseeing Campus Hearings?

More and more colleges and universities are turning to judges to oversee campus hearings, especially when they involve sexual assaults, according to this article at Inside Higher Ed. Supporters of the this development argue that judges can serve as impartial and qualified parties to hear these complicated cases. Critics suggest that using judges will make campus hearings more like a courtroom, something the Department of Education has been careful to avoid, since campus hearings provide students an alternative to the legal system. “We’re not in a court, we’re in a hearing about a school’s code, and I think there is a value to not making it like a courtroom,” explained Laura Dunn, the founder and director of a victims’ advocacy group. Another sign of the “professionalization” of campus hearings, according to the article, is the greater role lawyers are playing. Several states have passed or are considering legislation that would allow lawyers to more fully participate in campus proceedings. Despite the push towards greater professionalization, uncertainty still surrounds these developments. Peter Lake, a law professor at Stetson University, told Inside Higher Ed, “I think people are experimenting with a variety of different models, and there are some who think that working with highly professionalized external adjudicators is the right pathway, especially in complex or high-profile cases. It’s uncharted territory. We’re essentially creating a college court system.”

Bystander Intervention and Cyberbullying

According to a recent study, several factors influence a bystander’s willingness to respond to an incident of cyberbullying in an online forum: the forum’s level of anonymity, the bystander’s relationship to the victim, and the number of people participating. Reported by Inside Higher Ed, the study found that the bigger the group, the greater the anonymity, and the more distant the relationships between the participants, the less likely someone would respond to cyberbullying. “Once online identity is disconnected from offline identity, it can sometimes lead to antisocial online communication,” Nicholas Brody, one of the study’s authors, told Inside Higher Ed. The greater anonymity of online courses reduces participants’ feelings of personal responsibility for intervening. “It comes down to friendship and closeness,” Brody told Inside Higher Ed. “People are going to help out their friends.” Brody suggests that professors who are worried about cyberbullying in their online classes could organize smaller group work and interactions outside of the classroom to encourage students to build relationships with each other. As schools continue to develop their online course offerings, it will be interesting to see how they address sexual violence prevention in these settings.

 

 

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, November 14, 2014

Collective punishment for fraternities, the latest video by “It’s On Us,” and a timeline of sexual assault news from the last year.

Is Collective Punishment for Fraternities an Effective Prevention Technique?

In the wake of sexual assaults, fatal accidents, and other tragedies associated with fraternity parties, more and more colleges are turning to what some have deemed collective punishment: restricting or eliminating social events for all Greek organizations on campus, not just those associated with prior incidents. At Johns Hopkins all fraternity parties are banned until the end of the current semester, following a reported rape at Sigma Alpha Epsilon, despite the fact that neither the assailants nor the victim were associated with the fraternity. At Emory University all Greek social activities have been suspended following an assault at a fraternity house, and at MIT fraternity gatherings cannot exceed 49 people—the result of an accident in which a woman fell out of a fraternity window. Some commentators applaud such steps as common sense preventative measures while others have criticized such steps as unfair to fraternities and sororities that may be doing everything right and still be punished for a different group’s misdeeds or carelessness.

“It’s On Us” Promotes Bystander Intervention

Check out the latest spot from the White House’s “It’s On Us” anti-sexual assault campaign, which doubles-down on the theme of bystander intervention with a dramatization of a college-aged young man preventing sexual assault at a party. The video, narrated by Mad Men actor Jon Hamm, reflects current research suggesting bystander intervention may be a particularly promising prevention strategy. Other efforts will include partnerships with professional sports leagues, efforts to change the tone of victim-blaming conversations on the internet, and prizes for students who submit innovative strategies for bystander intervention.

A Timeline of Campus Sexual Assault

The past year has seen numerous developments in the fight against sexual assault on college campuses, including a White House campaign, new laws, and the latest count of 85 OCR investigations. This interactive infographic from Al-Jazeera America provides a timeline of the most relevant stories from the past year, serving as both useful summary and convenient resource.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, October 17, 2014

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In recognition of the occasion, as well as a very serious and important issue on college campuses, we have three stories for you about domestic and dating violence and what can be done to prevent it.

Sexual Assault Activists Turning Their Attention to Dating Violence

After successfully starting a national conversation about sexual assault on college campuses, and beginning to create actual change around the issue, feminist activists are turning their attention to another very important topic: domestic and dating violence amongst college students. The 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act added a provision to the Clery Act requiring schools to disclose the number of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking incidents reported on campus. Now, student activists are documenting institutions that have failed to comply with new requirements. The issue of relationship violence on college campuses is a particularly pressing one, given research suggesting that college-aged women are the most likely to be victim/survivors of dating and domestic violence. Hopefully, some of the same tactics that have been shown to help prevent sexual assaults, including bystander intervention and training, will help turn the tide against domestic and dating violence as well.

What Can Employers Do for Victim/Survivors of Domestic Violence?

Of course, domestic violence is a threat not just to college-aged women but to people of all ages. That ugly fact has an equally ugly corollary: that domestic violence can often spill over into the workplace. This piece, from Fast Company, recognizes that fact, and suggests a few simple measures that employers can take to protect their employees from potentially dangerous intimate partners. Author Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., a Manhattan District Attorney, notes the importance of recognizing the signs that an employee is being abused and offering victim/survivors support in the workplace. Specifically, he points out that, “Companies should have proactive mechanisms in place to support victims, provide them with services, and keep them safe.” He recommends simple but important steps such as tailoring a victim/survivor’s schedule and work location to their needs, making security aware of the situation and the identity of the abuser, and having an emergency contact in the event the victim/survivor cannot be reached.

Can Training Prevent Domestic Violence?

The NFL has caught a fair amount of well-deserved flak this season for its accommodating stance towards players widely known to be guilty of domestic abuse. There are, of course, any number of things the NFL could and should have done better. One particularly interesting suggestion comes from violence prevention educator Jackson Katz, who has worked with NFL players in the past. Katz is part of the Mentors in Violence Program, which trains young men not to perpetrate sexual and domestic violence. He believes that a more consistent anti-domestic violence training program in the NFL could help change a culture that tacitly accepts violence against women. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has promised to implement just such a program for all players in the wake of this year’s scandals. It may well be that training in other settings—including academic ones—could be a much needed step to combat domestic violence in society beyond the football field.

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