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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.

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Free Webinar with Dr. Novak
Posted by On Monday, March 16, 2015

Peter NovakTomorrow, we will be hosting a free webinar with Dr. Peter Novak, the Vice Provost for Student Life at the University of San Francisco. If you haven’t already done so be sure to register today.

During this 45-minute webinar, Dr. Novak will answer questions about how he and USF built and deployed their NASPA Gold Excellence award-winning Campus SaVE Act Training Program for students, faculty, and staff, and overcame challenges associated with deploying the campus-wide initiative.

Dr. Novak has an extensive background in Student Life with considerable experience as an academic and administrator in social justice issues. He received his doctorate in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism from Yale University. In addition to his doctorate, he holds an MFA from the American Conservatory Theater and an MA in English from Loyola University Chicago.

At Yale Dr. Novak served as Dean of Trumbull College , on the Provost’s Committee on Resources for Students and Employees with Disabilities, and on the Fund for Lesbian and Gay Studies. He is also a founding chair and tenured full professor in the Performing Arts and Social Justice program at the University of San Francisco. His research focuses on diversity and language, LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS dramatic literature, and Deaf culture and American Sign Language translation.

In December 2011, dissatisfied with the online training USF was offering incoming students, Dr. Novak approached LawRoom to build Think About It, an online training program for incoming students that addressed campus sexual assault and substance abuse. Dr. Novak had been impressed by the quality of LawRoom’s online harassment training programs developed for faculty and staff, and he felt LawRoom would be a valuable partner in creating a cutting edge, engaging online program on substance abuse and sexual violence for incoming students.

The collaboration brought together LawRoom’s expertise in legal compliance and online training with USF’s experience handling the unique social challenges students face in their transition to college life. As a result of their work, LawRoom developed CampusClarity, a service of LawRoom that is dedicated to creating training solutions for the higher education community.

USF and CampusClarity worked together extensively in the creation of the course. They conducted focus groups and user panels with students to refine the voice and tone of the course and make sure scenarios reflected realistic situations. Additionally, numerous department representatives and programs at USF, including the Gender and Sexualities Center and Health Promotions, helped develop learning objectives and course content. During the development process, USF and CampusClarity also hosted a conference with faculty and staff from 30 universities in order to prepare the course for a diverse group of campuses.

Since the development of Think About It, USF and CampusClarity have continued to collaborate on other initiatives and projects, such as the Talk About It community, a collection of resources administrators can use to implement ongoing programming on their campuses around the issues of sexual violence and alcohol abuse.

Tomorrow, Dr. Novak will talk in more detail about other initiatives he’s implemented at USF. Among other things, he will talk about balancing training with other priorities in Student life and how to create an effective program with limited staff, limited time, and limited budget.

His talk will be valuable for schools looking for ways to improve their current programs, and for schools that are just developing their training programs.

Dr. Novak will also discuss practical solutions for going beyond SaVE Act compliance, including:

- Deploying a campus-wide training program prior to the June deadline.
- How to help ensure adoption of the program by students and faculty.
- On-going educational programming based on institutional data.

Please go to our registration page to sign up for our free webinar if you haven’t already.

 

 

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Utilizing Talk About It to Create a Healthy Campus Climate
Posted by On Wednesday, November 19, 2014

By Jennifer Waryas, Health Marketing Coordinator at the University of San Francisco

 

The health of the entire campus community depends on a climate that is conducive to learning. Campus climate affects many aspects of the college experience, ranging from how students engage with alcohol and drugs and what part social norming plays in consumption to how students understand consent and other facts about sexual assault.

For many students in their first semester, developing healthy habits at the start of their college career is key. Through collaboration between departments, incoming students see a united front and receive materials that are in alignment with Think About It’s harm-reduction messaging. We seek to empower students by informing and educating them without resorting to scare tactics. By treating students as adults, we provide the opportunity for them to make their own healthy decisions.

Since students are required to take the first Think About It course before they arrive on campus, they are exposed to topics that they may or may not have experience with when they arrive. The messaging is echoed in materials and workshops provided during orientation. SHaRE (Student Housing and Residential Education) provides Alcohol Poisoning magnets and safe partying guides to all the dorm rooms. In one of the many presentations that students received as part of orientation this past Fall, Peter Novak, Vice Provost of Student Life, conducted a sexual assault workshop depicting an intimate encounter between two students. At each point in the encounter, students in the audience were asked to identify if consent was being given by showing a red or green card. The workshop allowed students to apply their knowledge of consent and generated interesting discussions among the participants.

Another collaboration with SHaRE is a dedicated bulletin board display in the residence hall common area for Talk About It displays. These change monthly and cover topics including domestic violence, self-image, healthy relationships, and alcohol and drug awareness.

The Gender & Sexuality Center (GSC) and Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) utilize Talk About It sexual assault brochures created for survivors, mandatory reporters, friends of victim/survivors, and those who have been accused. Public safety uses a warning signs card with Talk About It branding for students who have had a drug or alcohol incident. It is used simultaneously as a way to make the officers a part of the educational experience as well as to engage the student by asking a couple of provocative questions that may help them reflect on their lifestyle. To continue to encourage students to drink responsibly, Student Life issues birthday cards for students turning 21 which reinforce information from the party smart/safe guide.

A couple of pieces currently in production include a deck of cards that offers information such as common signs of alcohol poisoning and domestic violence, information from the USF health clinic, nutrition facts, and a sexual decision making handbook (in the form of an interactive PDF) that we are naming YOLO (“you only live once… Live with purpose”) that offers information on a variety of topics from healthy relationships to identity concerns and healthy date options.

We are also working with faculty to continue to find new ways to integrate Talk About It into the curriculum.

Talk About It has been an important piece of USF’s efforts to empower students to make safe and healthy decisions. The consistent messaging has made key learning points memorable. The branding has made the messages visible. And the various workshops and materials have involved the whole campus in our efforts.

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“Survivor-Centered”: Interview with Peter Novak [Part 2 of 3]
Posted by On Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In this second excerpt from CampusClarity’s interview with Peter Novak, he discusses the value of clear, coordinated, and survivor-centered policies and reporting procedures in dealing with issues of sexual misconduct on campus, and how the support of survivors is intrinsic to the goals of Title IX.

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Interview with USF Vice Provost Peter Novak [Part 1 of 3]
Posted by On Wednesday, September 24, 2014

CampusClarity recently interviewed Peter Novak, Vice Provost of Student Life at the University of San Francisco, about Student Life’s harm-prevention programming this Fall. The interview sheds light on how one school is approaching these important issues. We’ll be publishing the interview in three installments this week.

In this excerpt from that interview, Vice Provost Novak discusses how to use data collected by “Think About It” along with elements and themes from the course as a basis for expanded programming on sexual violence and substance abuse on campus.

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Peter Novak Talks Think About It and Creating an Ethic of Care on College Campuses
Posted by On Monday, August 25, 2014

The University of San Francisco and Peter Novak, USF’s Vice Provost for Student Life, were recently featured in an article and video from the National Catholic Reporter. The pieces go into detail about Think About It and how USF uses the program.

Vice Provost Novak and USF collaborated (and continue to collaborate) closely with us on developing the Think About It program.

In a recent opinion piece for the San Francisco Chronicle, Novak discussed the challenges schools face in eliminating campus sexual violence and substance abuse and the steps his university is taking to achieve this goal.

“Creating a new culture is the single largest challenge,” Novak writes, “as universities must contend with the many societal norms that have helped to shape students’ expectations of the traditional college experience. We must push ourselves to break new ground in the prevention of harmful behaviors.”

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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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Free Workshop on Consent
Posted by On Thursday, August 14, 2014

We’re excited to release today a consent workshop developed by our friends at the University of San Francisco’s Division of Student Life.

The workshop would be a helpful addition to any orientation program or a stand-alone refresher course for later in the year. It covers the definition of consent and gives some important statistics about sexual assault and intimacy in the campus community. It also gives students the opportunity to practice communication skills related to asking, giving, and denying consent.

Here are the downloads:

Although this workshop was developed for women, it can easily be adapted for students of any gender. In fact, we hope schools will tailor these resources to fit their unique needs and we encourage you to make refinements and improvements as you see fit. We do ask, however, that you share any changes you make to a workshop and make them freely available to the whole student conduct community (that’s why we use a creative commons license).

(more…)

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On Naming Violence
Posted by On Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Earlier this month, we attended a brown bag session at the University of San Francisco, “On the Importance of Naming: Being More Aware about How We Talk about Sexual Assault.” The session was held by professors Annick Wibben and Shawn Doubiago, who head the Women and Violence Research Group at USF.

The discussion focused on the ways language can both oppress and liberate survivors of sexual violence, and thus how important it is that we speak deliberately and carefully about sexual assault.

At a high level, our language can steer conversations in certain directions and towards certain conclusions. We spoke about the problems associated with focusing exclusively on legal definitions or the push to report, which, though valuable, also exclude or potentially trivialize experiences and feelings outside those definitions or that emphasis. Similarly, conversations that focus exclusively on heterosexual, female survivors can marginalize the experiences of survivors who are male, genderqueer, or transgender.

(See Ann Jones’s chilling and, sadly, still-relevant article on how our attitudes towards sexual violence can silence survivors.)

Our language poses similar traps at a more day-to-day level as well. For example, one participant suggested that there is a difference between saying ‘someone has been victimized’ and ‘someone is a victim’. The first acknowledges the violence, but does not make it the defining experience of the person. The second creates an equivalence between “someone” and “victim,” as if the label defines that person’s entire experience.

Indeed, there was considerable discussion around the appropriateness of terms such as victim and survivor. Some participants felt that “victim” could mire a person in a position of disempowerment, while others thought that the term powerfully acknowledged the violence done to them — something “survivor” does not necessarily do. Others floated the combined term “victim/survivor” as one that would allow individuals to self-identify with the term they found most appropriate.

Participants, many of whom were also advocates, shared the language they use to acknowledge the violence without forcing a label on it:

•    “It’s okay to call it this…”
•    “It sounds like…”
•    “What you describe sounds like…”
•    “Other people have called similar experiences…”

The key takeaway was the importance of clearing time and space in our discussions for individuals to express and explore their experiences and feelings without being restricted or limited to one narrative or label. Indeed, as was pointed out, an individual may not even recognize an experience as violent or abusive until long after the attack. Giving people space to rescue their own narratives from a difficult experience empowers them, which can be a liberating experience.

to conclude the session, we talked about ways to help students create their own social scripts to bridge the emotional and physical in relationships, and the healthier narratives we can provide men and women that emphasize the healthy, appropriate, and consensual pleasures of sex.

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What Happened at NASPA
Posted by On Friday, March 21, 2014

This week part of our team attended NASPA’s 2014 conference in Baltimore. Beside some brief snow flurries, which frightened our California sensibilities, the conference was immensely helpful and interesting.

Peter Novak and his colleagues presented a panel discussion on Think About It to a packed audience on Monday. As the session started, ushers had to turn away people because there were no seats left. In addition to the 170+ in the room, another 100 or so participated online, asking questions as the session was streamed to them.

In addition to Peter, the panel’s speakers were Carol Day, the Director of Heath Education Services at Georgetown University, Cori Planagan, the Director of Orientation at University of Idaho, and Deeqa Mohamed, a Student Peer Educator at University of San Francisco. All of the presenters were excellent, sharing the ways they’ve used Think About It as the foundation for their drug, alcohol, and sexual assault awareness and prevention education program at their universities.

We were particularly impressed with Deeqa Mohammed, who was presenting at her first conference. She spoke about using the course during brief motivational interviews. She uses the course’s videos and interactions as launching points for more in-depth conversations with her peers. For example, she might play some of the “hook up” culture video to a student to encourage them to talk about their expectations around relationships and hooking up, helping them become more aware of the pressures they face.

We enjoyed meeting with and talking to other attendees who had valuable insights into new resources and pressing issues on college campuses.

For instance, we spoke with an administrator from Purdue’s Military Family Research Institute about the importance of meeting the unique needs of veterans on campus. Meanwhile, a representative of the National Center for Responsible Gaming explained the dangers of gambling addiction among undergraduates.

Changing campus culture and educating students about how to stay safe during their college years is an ongoing process that requires delivering information, having conversations, exchanging ideas, and creating a community of engaged and enthusiastic participants. We saw a lot of that at NASPA.

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