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Looking Back on ATIXA
Posted by On Friday, October 17, 2014

We just got back from ATIXA, where we spent three days attending sessions, meeting educators and advocates, and learning a lot. It was a profoundly humbling experience as we got to know many of the remarkable people working hard to end campus sexual violence.

In the conference’s first session, activist and health educator LB Klein set the tone for the conference. She pointed out that the media’s narratives of campus sexual assault have framed the issue as an epidemic. The danger of this angle, she argued, is that it urges us to pursue quick fixes. But, of course, sexual violence on college campuses is not a new issue.

For example, in the National Institute of Justice’s 2000 study The Sexual Victimization of College Women, researchers estimated that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 women experienced attempted or completed rape while in college. In 2007, NIJ researchers found similar numbers. In fact, these numbers remain largely unchanged from what Mary Koss found in her groundbreaking studies in the 80s.

In order to gain a clearer perspective on the issue, Klein encouraged us to reframe the problem as one “endemic” to college campuses. Instead of quick fixes, she stressed, this reframing underscores the need for deep and thoughtful solutions that can be sustained over time and, of course, the need for significant investment in time and resources.

Klein’s message was echoed in many of the presentations. Indeed, another recurring theme of the conference was the importance of self-care for educators and advocates. Several speakers pointed to high turnover due to burnout and “compassion fatigue.”

However, if the problem has been persistent, there are signs that national attention is turning to this issue and others like it. Howard Kallem, a former attorney for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), cited statistics that suggest the OCR’s caseload is increasing. According to Kallem, in 2003 the OCR only closed 5141 cases. In 2014 that number stands at 9916. Hopefully these changes indicate that the issue is finally getting the attention it deserves.

Next week, we’ll explore some of the other issues and ideas that came up during the conference.

 

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Think About It for Graduate Students
Posted by On Wednesday, September 10, 2014

grad_welcome

Today we’re announcing the launch of Think About It for graduate students!

We’ve spent the last several months developing this course to address the unique needs and situation of graduate students. Refined and informed through focus groups with graduate students and roundtables with administrators, the course has a clean, professional look that appeals to older students. And at one hour, it’s streamlined while still covering all the important compliance and prevention issues, including consent, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking.

An image of graduate course interaction sample featuring a silhouette of a man making a statement.The course also covers bystander intervention in great depth. We begin by laying a high-level conceptual foundation for intervention, introducing ideas such as cultural barriers to social action. As the course progresses, we discuss further barriers to intervention (for instance, the ways we rationalize away someone’s bad behavior or our own inaction), model ways to overcome those barriers, and provide practical strategies to intervene. As always, we provide students opportunities to apply these skills in realistic scenarios.

We see all our courses as on-going projects, which evolve and develop as we collect more feedback from users and new research informs best practices. Just as we’re planning on using the latest research-based strategies to further improve our undergraduate course, we’ll be conducting more focus groups and roundtables to provide valuable insight on ways to engage students in our course material. We look forward to working with schools to create a program that helps them initiate meaningful change in a way that addresses these challenges in their campus communities.

To learn more about the course email us at admin@lawroom.com

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5 Stories About Compliance That You Need to Know this Fall
Posted by On Thursday, August 28, 2014

We know you’re busy preparing your campus for the Fall semester or welcoming students to campus. Over the next few months, however, there are some important developments you should be following. Below is a handy overview.

The Campus SaVE Act Regulations

Yes, the Campus SaVE Act is already law, but the regulations are still being finalized and won’t be released until November.

Signed into law in March of 2013, the Campus SaVE Act amends the Clery Act. It includes three major provisions: it expands the crimes that schools must report in their Annual Security Report; it establishes what should be included in the school’s policies and procedures to address campus sexual assault; and, finally, it mandates extensive “primary prevention and awareness programs” — which include training for students and staff — regarding recovery, reporting, and preventing sexual misconduct and related offenses.

After a process of negotiated rulemaking, the Department of Education published the draft regulations for the SaVE Act in the Federal Register this June, collected public comments on the proposed regulations this summer, and will publish the final regulations by November 1st. The regulations will be effective by July 1, 2015. Though the final regulations have not been published, schools need to make a good faith effort to comply with the SaVE Act by October 1st this year.

Check out some of our past coverage of the SaVE Act.

The Campus Safety and Accountability Act (CASA)

Of the bills recently introduced into the Senate or House of Representatives, CASA has received the lion’s share of the attention. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill are the most visible sponsors of the bill, but CASA enjoys strong bi-partisan support and includes prominent Republican co-sponsors such as Marco Rubio. The bill was developed by McCaskill and Gillibrand through a series of roundtables with victims, survivors, experts, advocates, and administrators. The senators also conducted a national survey of colleges and universities about how they responded to sexual misconduct on their campuses. Based on the findings of the survey and roundtables, the bill aims to curb campus sexual violence “by protecting and empowering students, and strengthening accountability and transparency for institutions.”

Specifically, the bill introduces fines for non-compliant institutions of up to 1% of their operating budgets and increases penalties for Clery Act violations from $35,000 to as much as $150,000 per violation. In terms of transparency, CASA would establish a government administered annual campus climate survey as well as a website run by the Department of Education with contact information for all Title IX coordinators and information on the Department of Education’s investigations, findings, and resolution agreements related to Title IX. Finally, the bill increases support and resources for victims and survivors through provisions detailing extensive training for staff, the creation of a new confidential advisor position at all higher-education institutions, and a required amnesty policy for students who reveal conduct violations (such as underage drinking) when reporting in good faith an incident of sexual violence.

For our past coverage, check out this list of our stories about CASA.

The Survivor Outreach and Support Campus Act (SOS Campus Act)

Introduced in the Senate by Barbara Boxer, and in the House by Susan Davis, the SOS Campus Act is fairly straightforward; it would require schools to “designate an independent advocate for campus sexual assault and prevention.” The Advocate would help victims and survivors connect with support resources like counseling or legal services and guide them through the reporting and adjudication processes. The bill emphasizes the independence of this new position, explaining that “the Advocate shall represent the interests of the student victim even when in conflict with the interests of the institution.”

Boxer recently wrote a letter to Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, asking her to voluntarily adopt the provisions in the bill: “I am working hard to pass the SOS Campus Act in Congress, but our students cannot afford to wait another minute for that to happen.”

Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency on Campus Sexual Violence Act (HALT Act)

Introduced by Representatives Jackie Speier and Pat Meehan, the HALT Act — like CASA — would improve transparency around campus sexual assault and increase the sanctions for schools violating student’s Title IX civil rights.

The HALT Act would require public disclosure of resolution agreements and program reviews from Title IX investigations and create mandatory climate surveys (the first of which would have to be administered no later than April 1st, 2015). It would also create a Campus Sexual Violence Task Force that would, among other things, publish an annual report on these issues.

With the praise of some and the condemnation of others, the bill would also create much stronger sanctions for non-compliant schools. It gives the Office of Civil Rights the ability to levy fines, “the amount of which shall be determined by the gravity of the violation.” It also gives students a private right of action. In other words, students could sue schools directly without going through the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

New Training Materials

The White House’s Not Alone report promised a host of new training materials and information on best-practices for this fall. Below is a list of what we can expect:

  • This Fall — “the CDC, in collaboration with the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women and the Department of Education, will convene a panel of experts to identify emerging, promising practices to prevent sexual assault on campus.”
  • September — “the Justice Department’s Center for Campus Public Safety will develop a training program for campus officials involved in investigating and adjudicating sexual assault cases.”
  • December — “the Department of Education, through the National Center on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments, will develop trauma-informed training materials for campus health center staff.”

We look forward to the release of these materials, which should prove valuable to schools trying to develop and improve their comprehensive awareness and prevention programs.

Even without the passage of any new legislation, new federal regulations, along with the recommendations and workshops, should provide schools with a strong set of requirements and best practices that will help them change campus culture to eliminate sexual violence.

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A New School Year — Let’s Talk About It
Posted by On Thursday, August 21, 2014

Today we’re publishing a guest post from Jennifer Waryas, the University of San Francisco’s Health Marketing Coordinator. Jennifer brings together different groups and individuals to coordinate USF’s harm-reduction efforts.

Today she is writing about some of the larger strategies she follows to create successful campus programming around sexual violence and substance abuse. She’ll be writing a post about once a month to keep us updated on her efforts, setbacks, and triumphs as the school year rolls on. You can also follow her at the USF Talk About It blog.

A New School Year – Let’s Talk About It

by Jennifer Waryas

And so the 2014-15 academic year begins . . .

In order for sexual violence prevention programs to be successful and win the attention of students, we need to deliver an effective, cohesive, consistent, and positive set of messages around the topics of alcohol, drugs, and sexual misconduct that empower all students to make decisions that ultimately result in a safe, fun, and successful college life experience. At the start of this new school year on the University of San Francisco campus, two big ideas govern our strategy: continuing conversations and coordinated messaging.

(more…)

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Why Your Sexual Assault Prevention Program Needs to Address Substance Abuse
Posted by On Thursday, May 29, 2014

It is crucial that a prevention program covers both sexual misconduct and substance abuse, especially alcohol abuse. Consider these statistics:

In other words, alcohol is the number one rape drug.

Indeed, researchers and educators have long called for sexual assault prevention programs to incorporate training on substance abuse as well. This includes recommendations from

There are many theories explaining the connection between alcohol and sexual assault including pharmacological and cultural reasons. (Antonia Abbey offers an excellent summary of these theories here. )

For instance, alcohol can incapacitate victims, making it harder for them to resist an attacker. Or it can make attackers more aggressive and impulsive. Perpetrators may also use to justify their crimes to themselves and those around them. An assailant might drink in order to surrender responsibility for his or her actions – “I can’t help it, I’m drunk.” Similarly, stereotypes about the relationship between drinking and sexual desire (e.g. women who drink are looking for sex) could encourage an assailant to aggressively pursue a woman despite her refusals. Victims may even internalize cultural stereotypes about alcohol and sexual behavior and as a result blame themselves for an assault.

Therefore, it’s crucial that a prevention program address these misconceptions and problematic associations, explaining that being drunk never excuses an individual from moral or legal responsibility for an assault nor does it place responsibility for an assault on the victim.

More broadly, a program that encourages (and teaches) students who drink to do so responsibly and to look out for their friends helps to instill positive habits and attitudes that will also help students stand up to sexual assault. It’s all part of the same prevention message.

For more on what to look for in a prevention program, refer to these posts:

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What is Ongoing?
Posted by On Friday, May 23, 2014
Ongoing Training

Free Bystander Workshop
Posted by On Tuesday, April 8, 2014

As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we’re releasing materials and resources that we think can help schools build their prevention programming. Today we’re publishing a workshop on Bystander Intervention. It includes a power point, handout, assessment, and discussion guide.

Download the materials here:

  1. Bystander Intervention PPT TAI
  2. Bystander Intervention Discussion Guide
  3. Bystander Intervention Handout
  4. Bystander Intervention Assessment
  5. Bystander Intervention Assessment Answer Key

In addition to our online courses, which discuss safe and positive options for bystander intervention, we also offer this workshop to help schools conduct live training. Resources like these can play an important role in your ongoing prevention efforts. You can use our reports to identify audiences that might most benefit from further bystander education or you can use the training as part of regular and optional workshops.

According to the Campus SaVE Act’s draft regulations, bystander training plays an important part in any school’s primary prevention programming. As defined in the draft regulations:

The term bystander intervention refers to safe and positive options that may be carried out by an individual or individuals to prevent harm or intervene in situations of potential harm when there is a risk of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking against a person other than the individual. Effective bystander intervention training prepares participants to recognize situations of potential harm, overcome barriers to intervening, identify safe and effective intervention options, and take action.

We will be releasing more materials this month and next. We hope you find them helpful!

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What is Your Campus Doing for Sexual Assault Awareness Month?
Posted by On Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It’s a good time for schools to reflect on and reinvigorate their campus programming around sexual violence.

If your school is still searching for quality resources and workshops, don’t worry, we’re here to help.

This month, we’ll be posting free, downloadable workshop materials and other resources. They will cover topics from consent to bystander intervention. We encourage you to use them.

Look for the first workshop later this week!

In addition, this month we’ll be reporting on the draft regulations for the Campus SaVE Act and the White House Task Force’s report on campus sexual violence. So keep checking in!

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