This paper is written in the form of a recommendation to the president of a nonspecific university. It is not meant to be considered a critique or suggested route for any university in particular. Instead, it is a compilation of suggestions that could benefit people nationwide.
Sexual assault and dating violence on college campuses have been major issues for years. Specifically, determining how to deal with the problems of sexual assault and dating violence between intimate partners has vexed policy makers and law enforcement for some time due to the seemingly ambiguous nature of some cases. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, dating violence “is controlling, abusive and aggressive behavior in a romantic relationship. It can happen in straight or gay relationships. It can include verbal, emotional, physical or sexual abuse, or a combination” (National Center for Victims of Crime 2016). Sexual assault has been defined as “aggressive behaviors including: sex without consent, rape, sexual control of reproductive rights, and all forms of sexual manipulation” (Olive 2012). Sexual assault can occur both inside of and outside of the context of a dating relationship or intimate partnership. The purpose of this paper is to present the problems of sexual assault and dating violence on college campuses, consider the potential causes and recommend steps the president of Hoosier University can take to address these issues.
Definition of the Problem
This section will introduce data and findings that convey the prevalence of dating violence and sexual assault among college-aged adults on and off college campuses nationwide. It will also critique responses to this kind of violence and address the consequences of these incidents for victims and society at large.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, or RAINN, broadly defines sexual assault as “a crime of power and control. The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim” (RAINN 2016). Based on that definition, a wide variety of sexual physical interactions would qualify as sexual assault, attempted rape or rape, all of which are felonies where those convicted may be sentenced multiple years in prison (Paquette 2016).
Statistically, sexual assault and dating violence is a particularly gendered crime that affects a substantial number of college-aged females. While it is important to note that men are also affected by sexual assault and dating violence, women are significantly more likely to fall victim to these crimes. According to a 1998 survey, “25 percent of surveyed women, compared with 8 percent of surveyed men, said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date in their lifetime” (Tjaden & Thoennes 1998). As such, this paper will focus on sexual assault and dating violence perpetrated against women by men.
Nationally, 29.4% of women experience their first rape between the ages of 18 and 24 (Tjaden & Thoennes 1998). In a national survey conducted in 2011, it was found that 79% of women who experienced completed rape were first raped before the age of 25 (Breiding et al. 2011). The average undergraduate college student is between 18 and 22 years old, placing them within both of the aforementioned age categories. By looking at both national sexual assault and dating violence data and at data specifically dealing with university students, it will become very clear that sexual assault and dating violence among college students is a prominent issue.
When considering violence against women, it has been found that most women are victimized by somebody they know. This can be an intimate partner, family member or other acquaintance. In fact, it was found that as many as 25.5% of women who have been victimized in their lifetimes were victimized by an intimate partner (Tjaden & Thoennes 2000). This same study estimated that 44.2 out of every 1,000 women are physically assaulted annually by intimate partners. It is important to note that in this study “intimate partners include current or former spouses, opposite-sex and same-sex cohabiting partners, boyfriends/girlfriends, and dates” (Tjaden & Thoennes 2000). This means that there is no category for ex-boyfriends and/or girlfriends. The addition of that group would only increase the number of attacks.
Knowing that many people experience violence at the hands of their intimate partners isn’t enough. It is also important to note when in a person’s life this type of conflict is likely to take place. For example, almost 80% of women who experienced complete rape experienced it under the age of 25. Of all of the women who experienced completed rape, 29.4% did so between the ages of 18 and 24 (Tjaden &Thoennes 2000). This encompasses those college-aged women, and is the second highest frequency of first rape experience by age with 11 to 17 years being just higher. As adults over the age of 18, 61.9% of women said they were raped by an intimate partner, and that number alone is cause for considering the gravity of dating violence among adult women.
There are also notable disparities between women of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. As noted in the 1998 National Violence Against Women Survey, the lifetime rate of rape and/or attempted rape for white women was 17.7% (Tjaden &Thoennes 1998). For black women, that number was 18.8%; 24.4% of mixed race individuals and 34.1% of American Indian/Alaskan women reported rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes (Tjaden &Thoennes 1998). Further, it has been found that “sexual assault against women of color is an attack on their identities as women and on their racial identities…. [they] are often at elevated risks for sexual assault and…their experience of sexual assault is usually made more difficult by factors such as race, socioeconomic status and location” (Olive 2012). This kind of disparity signals that although many women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes, people of certain racial backgrounds appear to be at higher risk.
Dating Violence and Sexual Assault Among College Students
Turning to focus specifically on 18 to 24-year-olds and whether they are students or nonstudents, a few distinct differences can be noted about how young women handle sexual assault and dating violence. The 2015 National Crime Victimization Survey highlighted the fact that one in five college students reported having experienced dating violence by a current partner. That same survey went further to report that one in four college females experience sexual assault and almost one-third of college students self-reported having assaulted a partner in the past year (Truman & Morgan 2016). In a special report from the U.S. Department of Justice titled “Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995-2013,” it was found that college-aged women who were not college students were 1.2 times more likely to have been raped or sexually assaulted. Consistent with the findings in national data from the “Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995-2013” findings, about 80% of students and nonstudents knew their attacker (Sinozich & Langton 2014). This familiarity with attackers highlights the dangers of dating violence and sexual assault beyond the idea of the stranger hiding in the woods or breaking into a woman’s home.
Those who belong to a variety of minority groups also have an increased risk of intimate partner and dating violence on college campuses. Students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or belonging to another sexual orientation outside of heterosexuality were at an increased risk for sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse and rape (Porter & Williams 2011). The same study reported that people belonging to a racial or ethnic minority were significantly more likely to be raped than those who were Caucasian (Porter & Williams 2011). All of these details point to a greater threat of sexual assault and dating violence for minority students from a variety of groups on college campuses.
A very small majority, 51%, of “student rape and sexual assault victimizations occurred while the victim was pursuing leisure activities away from home,” (Sinozich & Langton 2014) unlike nonstudents who were more likely to be victimized in the home. This is just the beginning of the disconcerting differences between college students and college-aged nonstudents. Generally speaking, Sinozich and Langton found students underreporting and minimizing the importance of their attacks. For example, about 80% of student rapes went unreported compared to only 67% of nonstudent rapes. Twelve percent of student victims reported that their rape was not important enough to bring to police; this was more than twice the number of nonstudents to share that same sentiment. This downplaying of sexual assault and rape can cause dangerous consequences for both victims and perpetrators of sexual assault and dating violence on college campuses.
Sinozich and Langton are not the only ones to find a significant number of college women have experienced sexual assault. The 2011 National College Dating Violence and Abuse Poll found the following: “Nearly half of dating college women (43%) report having ever experienced violent or abusive dating behaviors, and more than one in five (22%) report actual physical abuse, sexual abuse or threats of physical violence” (Knowledge Networks 2011). This survey found that not only is dating violence extremely common among college women, but access to and common knowledge of resources meant to serve those victims of this kind of abuse is surprisingly uncommon. The prevalence of these issues does not match the availability and accessibility of the resources.
In reviewing the current practices in place for dealing with sexual assault and dating violence against college-aged females, this section will focus on two main issues: the lack of consequences for perpetrators and the lack of resources and outreach support made available to victims. Both of these areas are currently insufficiently addressed by school and criminal justice systems, leaving perpetrators to think there are no ramifications for their actions and victims to think there is nothing they can do to seek closure or justice.
Lack of Consequences for Perpetrators
It is not uncommon for a perpetrator of rape or sexual violence to avoid receiving any consequences for his actions. Out of every 1,000 rapes reported, 994 perpetrators will walk (RAINN 2016). In this way, the justice system can be seen as allowing perpetrators of violence against women to endure minimal punishments, thereby diminishing the severity of their actions. Those few who are convicted of rape are often recommended to receive between eight and 20 years in prison (Paquette 2016). In recent years there have been a startling number of sexual assault and dating violence receiving minimal sentences even after they were found guilty. It has been found that fewer than 30% of students found responsible for a sexual assault were expelled from their university (Kingkade 2014). About 47% were suspended according to the same Huffington Post survey (Kingkade 2014). Despite a general consensus that those who have committed acts of sexual assault should be punished, few really see any consequences for their actions. Take, for example, the case of Brock Turner as a prime example of a person being convicted of rape and then serving less than the minimum sentence for the crime for which he was convicted. “Too lenient is how critics condemned the six-month jail sentence for Brock Turner,” the former Stanford University swimmer who sexually assaulted an unconscious 23-year-old woman (Gangon & Grinberg 2016).
The three felonies Turner was found guilty of having committed, assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated or unconscious person, sexual penetration of an intoxicated person and sexual penetration of an unconscious person, could have led to him serving a maximum ten years in prison (Knowles 2015). Instead, Judge Aaron Persky, who is no longer hearing criminal cases, only sentenced Turner to six months in county jail when prosecutors asked for six years (Grinberg & Simon 2015). These decisions made within the California justice system have received widespread criticism, and they are surprisingly common.
According to CNN in 2016, “little to no time in jail or prison is common among college athletes convicted of first-time sexual offenses — if they are charged at all.” The same article references a study in which it was found that college athletes are significantly less likely to be arrested for sexual assault than the general public; this information came to them from an antiquated 1997 study that has not since been revisited (Gangon & Grinberg 2016). This kind of response to sexual assault involving college-aged females, particularly by college-aged athletes, was further perpetuated in CNN’s findings that “52 cases of NCAA Division I athletes investigated by police for allegations of sexual violence over the past 20 years; 13 of them resulted in prison or jail time” (Gangon & Grinberg 2016). When the criminal justice system either can’t or won’t bring perpetrators to justice, there can be serious consequences. Regardless of whether it is a can’t or a won’t situation, the fact is that they don’t hold these individuals accountable for their actions, and as such, they are supporting the notion that men can get away with sexually assaulting women without any kind of serious repercussion while women can do nothing but stand by and make valid accusations that fall on deaf ears. The ability of perpetrators to get off virtually without consequence highlights a major issue with an already prominent problem.
Inadequate Response to Victims of Campus Dating Violence
Consider now the other side of the Brock Turner case: a victim watching her rapist go free. Seeing that not even the criminal justice system can help a woman who has experienced sexual assault or dating violence is nothing if not discouraging to victims. This is also a very common occurrence, also happening with a student at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Here, Delaney Robinson alleges that her rapist, UNC linebacker Allen Artis, was not addressed for six months after she brought her story to the police (Stancill 2016). Robinson reported that she reported her rape right away and was met with “demeaning questions about what she was wearing, what she was drinking, whether she ‘led him on,’ whether she said no, how many men she had slept with and whether she often had ‘one-night stands’” (Stancill 2016). Robinson effectively felt that police thought she was to blame for the incident or that she could have done something to change what happened to her. This kind of official response deters other victims from seeking out help or even reporting their rapes in the first place, making them think they might be to blame for anything that has happened to them and that perpetrators acted out in a sexually aggressive way against them for something they did.
While it is disconcerting to consider that victims may feel they are to blame for their attacks after encounters like the one Robinson described, it is even harder to consider that some justice officials will take that a step further, actively telling victims they believe more could have been done to prevent an incident of sexual assault or domestic violence. This is one of many examples of how victims may be led to believe there are no resources available to help them and no advocates working on their sides. Canadian federal court judge Robin Camp’s career was called into question after he asked a female rape victim in a case over which he was presiding why she “couldn’t keep her knees together” (Guerra 2016). Though Camp may lose his ability to preside over court cases because of this comment, he is not the only one who doesn’t consider victims to be victims. Rather, his mentality is one where perpetrators were not to blame; they were merely acting how they did because of something the victim did to coax them.
Lack of Resources and Outreach for Victims
While it is troubling to see the lack of emphasis placed on forcing perpetrators of sexual assault and dating violence to face consequences for their actions, it may be even worse that many victims report not knowing what to do after they are attacked. According to the 2013 National Crime Victimization Survey, only 10% of violent crime victims receive aid from a victim service agency. It is important to note that this encompasses victims of sexual violence, assault and aggravated assault. Even with this consideration, though, the number is extremely low (Truman & Langton 2014).
Focusing specifically on resources made available to college students, there is a wide discrepancy between accessibility to aid from one university to the next. In doing a content analysis of women’s resources and sexual assault literature on college campuses, Hayes-Smith and Hayes-Smith, 2009, found that “although many universities had sexual assault literature, few had women’s resource centers. In addition, the quality of literature and programs varied greatly among the universities” (Hayes-Smith, Hayes-Smith 2009). This wide variation in availability and accessibility of resources on college campuses may mean that some victims do not have access to the resources or programs they need to heal personally or advocate for themselves in a courtroom setting.
Taking this a step further, one study found that “more than one-third of college students (38%) say they would not know how to get help on campus if they found themselves in an abusive relationship” (Knowledge Networks 2011). Though many universities declare that they have a variety of programs in place to provide aid, medical attention and counseling to victims of sexual assault and dating violence, how accessible they really are has been called into question by findings like this one.
Looking closer at the courtroom as a resource, it has been reported that women who bring their cases in front of judges are often met with a judge or attorney “discrediting the victim’s rape allegation with the techniques of finding discrepancies in the victim’s story and assuming ulterior motives for reporting the assault,” (Frohmann 1991). In this study, it is noted that most sexual assault cases do not get past the filing of a complaint in the courts, yet another barrier for victims seeking justice and closure. It would appear that, on many levels, victims are sorely lacking in resources and access to them.
Inadequate Training of Campus Police and Officials on How to Respond to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Victims
When a college student is sexually assaulted, particularly on campus, one of the first resources they may come in contact with is a campus police officer. These people, though they are trained officers of the law, are often times woefully underprepared for dealing with a victim of sexual assault. Further, after that initial contact with campus police, students may then face administrators who are equally ill-prepared to assist them.
This concern is best encapsulated in the idea that “law enforcement officers and campus administrators need better training in how to interview and assist students who report sexual assaults on college campuses” (Taylor 2014). Despite this clear need, there is not really a clear solution. For example, it is important to consider “the delicate balance of needing to interview a rape survivor right away to get the proper evidence necessary for prosecution, but also being sensitive that he or she may be traumatized and prefer to seek punishment through campus disciplinary channels, or not at all” (Taylor 2014). By not allowing a victim to feel in control of the follow-up of their attack, they are likely to feel the same helplessness they did during the incident. This is especially detrimental in situations of chronic or repeated abuse and may deter a victim from ever reaching out for aid again.
Listening to a victim can also easily be mishandled by an officer or administrator that “blames victims for what they were wearing or doing at the time of the assault” (Taylor 2014). Even if it is done indirectly, a victim may begin to self-blame for the incident or feel that he or she should not come forward in the future because he or she was drunk or had been wearing something that the interviewer considered to be provocative. The current lack of explicit guidelines for dealing with campus dating violence and sexual assault has left many campus police officers woefully unprepared to assist victims (AAUP 2012). Until it can be guaranteed that the first responders a victim encounters are properly trained, the risk of underreporting, self-blame and other more serious consequences surrounding campus-wide views of dating violence and sexual assault will persist.
Inadequate Communication and Collaboration with Local Law Enforcement
There are inadequacies outside the campus law enforcement community that also merit some discussion. A major concern is the problem of overlapping jurisdictions that come into play when “a sexual assault [takes] place in an off-campus apartment or fraternity, out of the direct purview of a university” (Taylor 2014). In this case, before one can even address the victim there is a question of what jurisdiction the case falls into between local law enforcement and the campus police. In some cases, it is possible that a case without an obvious jurisdiction may fall through the cracks and not be prosecuted at all.
In some cases, it may be beneficial for a victim to report his or her case to both campus and local law enforcement. There has been some discussion of “[encouraging] victims to report the incident to campus authorities and to off-campus police, and… [indicating] what each procedure entails and what purpose the reporting will serve” (AAUP 2012). By doing this, the victim would become the first link between law enforcement agencies and increase his or her odds of continuing the pursuit of justice and consequences for the actions of his or her attacker. Opening the lines of communication between overlapping police departments and law enforcement encourages a communal response and allows multiple jurisdictions to work together to achieve a solution for the victim.
It is clear that universities and the criminal justice system have not yet found fully functional best practices for dealing with sexual assault and dating violence on college campuses. Many of these deficiencies seem to be related to a lack of understanding of the scope and severity of sexual assault and dating violence. This misunderstanding leads to a variety of consequences, not just for the victims, but also for society as a whole.
It would seem obvious that victims of sexual assault and dating violence walk away from those incidents the most severely affected, but it is important to understand how exactly they are affected by the experience. The victim’s health, both mental and physical, is almost always at risk of being adversely affected during or after an assault. While visible physical trauma may manifest itself in the form of bruising, bleeding and/or broken bones, a victims of sexual assault may also experience “poor health status, poor quality of life, and high use of health services” (Campbell 2002). Women who have been abused are at an increased risk of things like sexually transmitted diseases, chronic pain and gastrointestinal issues. Approximately five percent of rapes result in pregnancy, adding yet another facet to an already difficult situation for a woman as she becomes responsible for a second life (Effects of Sexual Assault and Rape 2016). All of these things can be a part of the aforementioned poor health and use of health services.
Along with the physical affects, women often times experiences mental health issues as a result of sexual assault and dating violence. “Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, which have substantial comorbidity, are the most prevalent mental-health” issues women will experience after the abuse (Campbell 2002). When, as was previously stated, resources are not easily accessible to victims of sexual assault and dating violence, or when those sources do not take a woman seriously, it is easy to see how she may end up mentally unhealthy. Without any kind of outreach or coping mechanisms, women may experience these kinds of mental illnesses and incapacitation.
Socially, victims of sexual assault and dating violence may also struggle. It has been suggested that “women who have been the victims of sexual assaults may experience problems in relationships with intimate partners and friends” (Health Consequences of Sexual Assault 2006). These women are less likely to experience trusting relationships and will often times struggle to engage in healthy sexual interactions with partners. This social dysfunction can affect a woman’s ability to go to work, stay in school or simply interact with others. All of these consequences have a profound effect on women’s lives and their ability to function daily.
Victims who are also college students may experience additional consequences relating to finances and their education. A lack of motivation to study can lead to a decline in a student’s grades that would make dropping out of school or at least discontinuing a semester seem like a better option. At least, it would be the better option were it not for the potential financial ruin attached to it. Although courts have determined that Title IX requires universities to “help survivors of gender-based violence continue their educations,” many universities allow their students to slip through the cracks and not receive the aid they are promised. In one Washington Post article, the costs were addressed in the following way:
“Thousands of dollars can disappear into rent for a new apartment off campus, away from an abusive ex, or into bills for hours of much-needed counseling. When a school denies survivors the services and support they need to recover, students may be forced to take out additional loans — or even to leave school, a semester’s tuition down the drain… For a student who lacks the means to swallow these costs, sexual violence might mean the end of her education” (Brodsky 2014).
With the threat of financial crisis looming over victims of sexual assault and dating violence on college campuses, particularly those of middle and lower socioeconomic standing, it is easy to see that there is room for improvement in the handling of these cases.
While most effects of domestic violence fall directly on the victim, some of them have larger societal impacts. Take, for example, the fact that “Victims often lose their jobs because of absenteeism due to illness as a result of the violence,” affecting not only their personal income, but in some ways their employers’ staff consistency (Shalom Task Force n.d.). The cost of healthcare for women who are victims of domestic violence is also about 92% more than a random sample of general female enrollees (Shalom Task Force n.d.).
Several studies worldwide have estimated that domestic violence costs billions of dollars annually in medical care, missed work days and courtroom fees (Community Costs of Domestic Violence 2011). Not only victims struggle in the workplace. In fact, it has been stated that
“both abusers and victims struggle in the workplace. Sometimes they’re unreliable at work – they have trouble concentrating and little things get them angry, sometime aggressively so. In many cases they’re terminated for behavior that stemmed from the home environment. Of course this puts strain on the individual but also on the business. After all, they had to pay wages to an unreliable employee, now they’re short an employee and must go through the process of hiring and training a replacement” (Smith, White 2016).
While a victim of sexual assault or dating violence should not be ignored, these kinds of impacts cannot go unnoticed as they affect the larger community. When it comes to sexual assault and domestic violence, there are consequences that can reach out to almost everybody in society, whether directly or indirectly, and have a major impact on a person’s life.
Review of Causal Factors
This section of the paper examines what causes dating violence and sexual assault on college campuses. The literature points to substance use and abuse, beliefs that dating violence and sexual assault are common, acceptable practices and a need for power and control in a relationship.
Substance Use and Abuse
The use of drugs and alcohol has been connected to both the perpetration of dating violence and sexual assault and the occurrence of being victimized in these ways. Student who do not consume alcohol are at risk of experiencing a second-hand consequence of excessive drinking as they may become the victim of sexual assault (NIAAA 2002). On multiple occasions “alcohol use/abuse has been documented as a risk factor for many types of aggressive and violent behaviors” (Foran & O’Leary 2008). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that consuming drugs and alcohol place individuals at an increased risk of becoming the victim of a sexual assault (PCAR 2016). It has been found that, annually, 70,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape (NIAAA 2002). Some people have attempted to distance alcohol use from dating violence and sexual assault, saying victims are blamed for their alcohol use while perpetrators use it as a reason they should not be held responsible for their actions (WCSAP 2005). While the scope of the problem still has not been defined, it is clear that the use of alcohol is causally linked to dating violence and sexual assault on college campuses.
Because drinking alcohol is usually a social activity, it is not uncommon for both the perpetrator and the victim to be drinking together at the time of the attack (Abbey, Zawacki, Buck, Clinton & McAuslan 2016). One survey reported that “43% of the sexual victimization incidents involve alcohol consumption by victims and 69% involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrators” (Gray 2012). There have been similar findings relating to the use of recreational drugs, particularly in college settings. As such, substance use and abuse can lead to a perpetrator committing an act of dating violence or sexual assault or to a victim being less able to escape this type of act.
The link between substance use and dating violence among college students has yet to be systematically reviewed (Shorey, Stuart & Cornelius 2011). For this reason, most research currently looks at adult intimate partner relationships and sexual assault to establish a correlation. Sexual assault and substance abuse may intersect, but their relationship has not yet fully been understood by researchers. Not only do drugs and alcohol cause dating violence and sexual assault on college campuses, they are also often times consequences of having been the victim of dating violence or sexual assault.
Belief that Dating Violence and Sexual Assault Are Common and Acceptable
With society holding violence in high regard as a common if not acceptable behavior, it is easy to see why dating violence might be so widespread. When a person grows up around violence, either in a violent household or with violent friends, they are far more likely to normalize that behavior, assuming that it is the best solution to a relationship conflict. While researchers are hesitant to say that witnessing violence causes a person to behave violently, it has been noted that “girls who witness their fathers using violence and boys who witness their mothers using violence are more likely to be violent in dating relationships” (PHAC 2016). Most people exposed to violence at a young age will not become violent; however, people who are violent toward their intimate partners are more likely to have been exposed to violence while they were growing up.
People who use violence outside of the context of dating relationships are also more likely to bring violence into their intimate relationships, particularly in the case of conflict in that relationship. “Rules or expectations of behaviour – norms – within a cultural or social group can encourage violence” causing people to turn to violence simply because it is a frequently used option (World Health Organization 2009).
Women in particular fall prey to this mentality, thinking that when their partners use violence against them, they are simply acting in a normal fashion. When women believe it is natural for men to behave aggressively toward them, they will not report violent acts (VASP 2016). Until society reshapes its accepting view of violence, women will continue to be at risk of tolerating, accepting and even expecting violence from dating partners.
Need for Power and Control in Relationships
Most abuse and sexual assaults within the context of dating or intimate relationships is not merely based on a sex drive. Often times, the violence is an effort to gain or maintain power and control in a relationship. When conflict arises, violence may seem the best way to subdue it. Dating violence has been viewed as an attempt to control a partner — that is, to exercise power over the other” in a way that, although it is part of an intimate relationship, rarely has anything to do with intimacy between partners (PHAC 2016). In the context of college dating, it is rare that things like economic success or age will lead to an unequal power dynamic. Instead, this dynamic may simply come from expected gender roles. Regardless, it is not uncommon for a man to use violence to maintain the current power dichotomy of a relationship.
One of the most frequently cited explanations of how violence is used to maintain power and control is the Power and Control Wheel. Developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project and disseminated by the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, the wheel is a visual explanation of the different ways people can control and maintain power over their partners (DAIP 2016). It includes such points as isolation, emotional abuse and male privilege. This model has been adapted to a variety of different subgroups including college students, the military and LGBT communities. Regardless of the adaptation, all of the wheels seem to point to the fact that a need for power and control in a relationship can be manifested in a variety of ways, several of which are seen as violence.
This section of the paper lists four recommendations that the President of Hoosier University should consider implementing as part of her comprehensive plan to address campus dating violence and sexual assault. These recommendations are based on a review of the currently available literature on the subject, and each recommendation relates to reducing, preventing or dealing with incidents of dating violence and/or sexual assault on college campuses. Each recommendation comes with a rationale for the recommendation, examples of similar programs and policies already in place and a list of challenges Hoosier University may face in trying to implement these policies or programs.
- The President of Hoosier University should require incoming freshman and transfer students to complete an alcohol use and abuse awareness course online before they can register for classes.
Alcohol consumption and abuse are two huge issues facing college campuses. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has stated that “abusive and underage college drinking are significant public health problems, and they exact an enormous toll on the intellectual and social lives of students on campuses across the United States” (NIAAA 2016). One of the major ways alcohol consumption can affect student health and social interaction is through causing an increased risk of violence and assault. The NIAAA estimates that 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted annually by a student who has been drinking (NIAAA 2016). Separately, an estimated 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape (NIAAA 2016).
Part of this problem stems from these young adults being away from home for the first time and having access to a variety of alcohol in a variety of settings that range from house parties to bars. Students who are not yet aware of how alcohol will affect them are at an increased risk of exceeding their personal limits and overindulging while consuming alcohol. By a Blood Alcohol Content of just .07, most people experience a reduction in judgment and self-control, which can lead to unwanted sexual behavior or an increase in violence (B.R.A.D. 1999). Being uninformed about responsible consumption of alcohol is an obvious precursor to potential sexual assault and dating violence.
Because of the widespread nature of this issue, it is of vital importance that the President of Hoosier University seeks to reach all of the students as soon as they come to college and educate them on the matter of responsible drinking. Though the President cannot prevent all of the students from consuming alcohol, she can reach out to them and encourage them to make educated decisions about drinking.
AlcoholEdu for College Online Program
One of the most commonly used programs for universities nationwide, AlcoholEdu is an online program that, since it was introduced in 2006, has gained a lot of attention. It is designed to reduce the harm of drinking through education rather than other, less effective techniques such as the prohibition of alcohol (Chesley 2010). In 2010, the program’s funding was continued due to reported success at Stanford University (Chesley 2010). A survey distributed to the first four years of students who completed the program at Stanford found that “The results show that 71 percent of respondents found the program at least somewhat effective, and 77 percent acknowledged they learned something” (Chesley 2010). Along with the self-reported data from students, Stanford saw a decline in things like alcohol-related trips to emergency rooms. Results like this also can be correlated with a decrease in violence.
AlcoholEdu is used by colleges such as West Virginia University, Miami University and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis all require their students to complete the course before they begin their classes. IUPUI, for example, sets a mandatory deadline for students and links them directly to the program through their university accounts (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis 2016). It is required for all undergraduate students 25 years old or younger and acknowledges that “the vast majority of students like you are not regular drinkers” (Indiana University Purdue University 2016). Despite this, the university suggests that AlcoholEdu can help students to care for each other and create a safer environment overall. Those specific age requirements are not seen at every university, but the President of Hoosier University will be able to determine what he believes works best for the students. The use of a mandatory program like this would ensure that the President of Hoosier University has done his part to educate student not only on how to be responsible for themselves, but also how to take care of others.
National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week
From October 19 through the 25, colleges nationwide participate in National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week. Throughout the week, universities sponsor “programs, forums, and educational initiatives aimed at raising awareness of alcohol issues on campus” (Choose Responsibility 2016). This week has been celebrated across the country for over 25 years, providing students with free and easily accessible education about safe practices when consuming alcohol (NASPA 2016). Through this form of education, students at Hoosier University would be able to continually engage the material they learned upon arriving at the university through a program like AlcoholEdu.
Texas Tech University celebrates National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week with activities like a drunk goggles obstacle course, performances followed by panel discussions and a general festival where students can participate in activities other than drinking (Texas Tech University 2016). The University of Miami also participates in National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week with a variety of events designed by students on the campus (University of Miami 2016). By promoting a series of educational events like this on campus and encouraging students to create and schedule the events themselves, the President of Hoosier University can allow students to remain engaged with the material and strive to make safe decisions while consuming alcohol.
Obstacles and Challenges
The main obstacle the President of Hoosier University will face while implementing this type of educational program is convincing students to care. While it will be required of them to complete an online course before they can attend classes, a simple Google search could provide students with the answers the need for the course. It would be ideal to find a way to force students to engage with the material in a more meaningful way than a mere online course. To do something like that would make it harder to keep the mandatory status of the training. Consider how difficult it would be to mandate that students participate in National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week.
Along with this issue, results are showing that programs like AlcoholEdu have not been able to reduce all types of drinking. Binge drinking in particular, and the consumption of hard liquor has not declined in any notable way on campuses that administer the AlcoholEdu program. Ideally, the President of Hoosier University will be able to locate and select, or possibly design, a program that is more effective in targeting the dangers of binge drinking for students. Education is vitally important, but the right kind of education is what will make the difference for students at Hoosier University.
- The President of Hoosier University should initiate a public awareness campaign that provides a forum for open dialogue about sexual assault and dating violence between all students, staff and faculty on campus and facilitates a more communal response and better access to resources in the event of sexual assault or dating violence.
A major issue facing the prosecution of perpetrators of sexual assault and dating violence is the initial lack of reporting of incidences of sexual assault and dating violence. It has been speculated that more than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report their assault (Fisher, Cullen & Turner 2000). For example, a special report found that between 2005 and 2010, 64% of rape and sexual assault victimizations went unreported to the police (Planty, Langton, Krebs, Berzofsky & Smiley-McDonald 2013). While there are a variety of reasons that victims reported they did not report their assault to police between 2005 and 2010, three of the most common reasons were a fear of reprisal from the perpetrator (20%), thinking the assault was a personal matter (13%) and thinking the police would do nothing to help (13%) (Planty, Langton, Krebs, Berzofsky & Smiley-McDonald 2013). Almost all of these barriers in reporting sexual assault and dating violence link back to a lack of communication and open conversations about sexual assault and dating violence. Currently, it is not socially acceptable to acknowledge sexual assault because “society insinuates disgrace upon the survivor, whom the perpetrator violated and exploited” and becomes generally uncomfortable with the subject (Gluck 2016). This potent stigma silences victims before they can receive the help they need, even at an informal level through friends and peers.
Along with informing people that what they have experienced may actually be a crime, providing opportunities to engage in dialogue about campus sexual assault and dating violence may in its own way allow people to air grievances about the current system in place. Many people, both victims and advocates, are unimpressed with the current state of sexual assault policies on their campuses. For example, one survey said that, when asked to give their university a grade on their sexual violence policies “9.8 percent of students gave their college an A, 40 percent gave their school a B, and 34 percent rated it with a C. The survey showed half of students gave their school a C or lower” (Kingkade 2013). Possibly even more discouraging is the fact that that same survey found that “6 percent of students didn’t know if their school has a sexual assault policy. Fewer than half — 42 percent — said they were informed about their school’s policy during orientation” (Kingkade 2013). These results point to the fact that even if a college campus’s policy for sexual assault and dating violence isn’t lacking, people on campus may be lacking information about what their rights are and what resources are available to them.
The American Association of University Professors voices similar views on the matter. In October of 2012, the AAUP released a statement saying the following:
“All members of the campus community—faculty members, administrators, staff members, and students—share responsibility for addressing the problem of campus sexual assault and should be represented in the policy-development process. Once policies and procedures are in place, the institution must make them widely available” (AAUP 2012).
This statement is almost directly in line with the aforementioned recommendation as it highlights the importance of making sexual assault a campus community problem and one that must have resources that are made widely available to all students. Furthermore, the AAUP (2012) has suggested that the concept of campus community includes off-campus resources such as local police departments and hospitals that might also receive reports from students of sexual assault and dating violence (AAUP 2012). Campus-wide community involvement only widens the net and helps to ensure that more victims of sexual assault and dating violence might be able to receive some form of aid or justice for crimes committed against them.
In accordance with these ideals, Indiana University’s Culture of Care Initiative will be examined as an example of this kind of communal dealing with sexual assault. The President of Hoosier University needs to consider this as one of many options for making sexual assault and dating violence a campus community issue, one that people can have open dialogue about and one in which resources available to victims are easily accessible and common knowledge to students, staff and faculty.
Indiana University’s Culture of Care Initiative
At Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., the Culture of Care initiative is one way in which the campus is attempting to create and maintain an open dialogue about sexual assault and dating violence on Indiana University’s campus. Culture of Care is a “campus wide, student-led and staff-supported initiative focused on creating a campus culture in which members of the Indiana University Bloomington community demonstrate “care” for one another” (Indiana University Bloomington 2012). The initiative focuses on encouraging students to intervene in problematic situations of all varieties, including not only sexual assault situations, but also things like mental health outreach and drug and alcohol issues (Indiana University Bloomington 2012). This kind of program intervention encourages both the goal of opening dialogue about sexual assault and dating violence on campus as well as making known available resources of survivors of sexual assault and dating violence.
Looking specifically at the Culture of Care website as a resource, one can see that it is formatted in an easy to access way. The website contains links to university policies for dealing with sexual assault and dating violence as well as links to resources ranging from the Indiana University Police Department to the Sexual Assault Crisis Services office on campus. Simply by creating a website where all of this information is consolidated and easily accessible, Indiana University allows people better access to some of the resources they need. A “Resources” tab with hyperlinks takes visitors directly to the websites and contacts they need, including an email address monitored by the Culture of Care advisors. Recommendations for how a student can be involved and defeat the bystander effect that prevents people from intervening in sexual assault or dating violence situations are also easily accessed on this website. This information is vitally important because as early as 2011 it was reported that “nearly 100 percent of college students and 92 percent of nonstudents in the 18-24 age range were Internet users” (Zou 2011). The high rate of college aged individuals going to the internet for information makes having a website a prime way to ensure college students who are victims of sexual assault and dating violence will find the resources they need.
Along with acting as a database of important resources, the Indiana University Culture of Care website also encourages students to take action in situations of sexual assault and dating violence. There is an entire section titled “Take Action” under the category of “Sexual Assault” on the website, encouraging people not to remain bystanders in situations where their actions may help a person avoid a sexual assault or dating violence situation or in situations where one of the two has already occurred and people need help (Indiana University Bloomington 2012). Language used in the Culture of Care initiative is enough to suggest that students should be aware of and help to take care of fellow students who have experienced sexual assault or dating violence. This type of information lines up directly with a recommendation to the President of Hoosier University to open lines of communication by making conversation about sexual assault and dating violence less taboo and by making resources readily available to students.
Culture of Care’s social media presence on Facebook and Twitter is an extension of their online presence. On these pages, events are advertised that encourage students to meet with others on campus and discuss such things as sexual health, sexual assault and creating a caring and supportive campus environment. Lectures on hookup culture and opportunities to meet the advisors of Culture of Care are two types of events aimed at ending the stigma associated with talking about sex and sexual assault (Indiana University Bloomington 2012). The ability to comment on and share posts on both forums also encourages communication and the dissemination of information with an online community.
One of the biggest contributions to the opening of lines of dialogue is Culture of Care Week on Indiana University’s campus. Culture of Care Week is held consistently the week before Little 500, an annual spring event for the university. The week includes “included events aimed at raising awareness and educating students on relevant wellness topics” including responsible alcohol consumption and healthy sexual activity (Indiana University Bloomington 2012). Hosting an annual event encouraging students to come out and interact with each other and the topics of sexual assault and dating violence is one of the more involved ways the President of Hoosier University should consider when it comes to fronting a public awareness campaign that will engage people in the campus community.
Know Your IX Organization
Founded in 2013, Know Your IX is a nationwide organization dedicated to helping high school and college students try to bring about an end to sexual assault and dating violence in schools. The organization focuses on civil rights law Title IX which states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” (U.S. Department of Education 2015). The Know Your IX organization tries to accomplish their missions of ending sexual violence and empowering people to be involved by doing the following:
- “Educating college and high school students in the United States about their legal rights to safe educations free from gender-based harms;
- Training, organizing, and supporting student survivor activists in challenging their educational institutions to address violence and discrimination;
- Advocating for policy change at the campus, state, and federal levels to ensure meaningful systemic action to end gender violence” (Know Your IX 2013).
These kinds of educational awareness, victim aid and advocacy all coincide with the goal of talking about sexual assault and dating violence while informing people of the resources made available to them by the criminal justice system as well as through social workers and community outreach.
Know Your IX also offers a variety of resources on its website for the other stakeholders in a sexual assault or dating violence situation. They have guidance for people supporting survivors, policy recommendations for campus officials like the president of Hoosier University and case studies from universities across the country documenting their dealings with sexual assault and dating violence on campuses. The organization’s website as resources for dealing with all phases of a sexual assault. Know Your IX is nationally accessible and easily adaptable to any state’s standards of sexual assault and dating violence from a legal standpoint. For this reason, it is a universally functional tool and an organization that helps to benefit all victims of sexual assault and dating violence.
In order to engage college campuses, Know Your IX has a group of activists who can be invited to a campus in order to deliver keynote speeches, training, workshops and panels on a variety of topics including campus anti-violence movements, what rights a victim of sexual assault has and stories of how survivors of sexual assault helped to launch this organization (Know Your IX 2013). They have presented at such universities as Yale, Harvard and the University of Chicago, presenting on the variety of topics mentioned above and encouraging dialogue at all of their events (Know Your IX 2013).
Also facilitated by Know Your XI, the Campus Action Network is a way for students to share resources and organizational strategies that they have found successful on their campuses with other campuses nationwide. The network is entirely electronic and accessed by signing up through the Know Your IX website where students can sign up and immediately start receiving alerts about new information from the Campus Action Network. This network in itself is an open-dialogue opportunity that the President of Hoosier University should welcome on the campus.
A lot can be learned from an organization like Know Your IX when it comes to opening lines of dialogue about sexual assault and dating violence. From the easy accessibility to the wide breadth of resources available through Know Your IX, it is easy to see how people can benefit from information and conversation when it comes to students dealing with sexual assault and dating violence on college campuses.
Obstacles and Challenges
As the focus of this recommendation is to open lines of dialogue and to make resources available to students, it is easy to see that some of the biggest issues will stem from changing the way people view sexual assault and dating violence. There are several reasons that sexual assault and dating violence continue to be taboo topics, most of them revolving around how the victims feels coming forward and talking about her experience. There is still a common trend of blaming victims in some way or another for their assault, and when a woman feels as though she is to blame for her attack, she is far less likely to speak out against her attacker, particularly if she knows him personally (Miller 2016).
Along with this belief that the victim is the one to blame, the effort it takes to seek legal ramifications for a perpetrator of sexual assault or dating violence will require a victim to retell and relive her attack repeatedly. This is likely a source of embarrassment or discomfort for her (Miller 2016). If people on college campuses cannot work to change the stigma associated with being a victim of sexual assault or dating violence, the necessary dialogue that can help victims heal and perpetrators recognize the crimes they have committed cannot take place. It is more than just a tall order to try and change the way society views an issue, and for this reason it will be extremely difficult to encourage open dialogue and the disseminating of resources effectively across the campus of Hoosier University.
- The President of Hoosier University should mandate that campus police officers undergo enhanced sexual assault and intimate partner violence training specifically related to dealing with victims of sexual assault and dating violence.
The majority of women will not go to the police or report an act of dating violence by an intimate partner. While some of those reasons are personal, others are directly related to the kind of treatment a person receives or expects to receive when they involve the police in a sexual assault or dating violence situation. According to the Campus Sexual Assault Study (CSA), 2007, victims feared they would be treated poorly and lose control of the proceedings that followed their report (Krebs, Lindquist, Warner, Fisher & Martin, 2007). Furthermore, it has been reported that “21% of physically forced victims and 12% of incapacitated victims did not report because they didn’t think the police would take the crime seriously and 13% of forced victims and 24% of incapacitated victims feared the police would treat them poorly” (Gray 2014). A fear of not being believed at all can also inhibit a victim, despite people worldwide saying a culture needs to be institutionalized within the police force in which the victim is believed every time (Bates 2014).
Along with fearing the police may not believe their story or respect them, victims also have concerns about how much control they will have after they have reported an incident to the police. To victims watching rape trials on television, “there is wide discrepancy between how prosecutors and police officers in various jurisdictions handle sex crimes. Some will give broad power and control to the victim, while others may pursue the case against the victim’s wishes” (Gray 2014). This lack of control stems in some ways from a lack of communication between police officers and victims of sexual assault and dating violence.
The trauma associated with sexual assault and dating violence also inhibits a person’s will to report an incident to the police. According to Human Rights Watch (2013) an initial contact with a victim and how it is needs to leave the victim feeling the officer believes her; a brief but compassionate exchange is often the first step to encouraging a victim to work with the police (Human Rights Watch 2013). Building this rapport between officers and victims does not generally just happen. Teaching officers how to specifically deal with victims of sexual assault and dating violence through mandatory classes on the current best practices will lead to better relationships, and “better relations with victims lead to better results” (Human Rights Watch 2013). By mandating training for dealing with victims, the President of Hoosier University can ensure that once a victim has taken a step toward getting the police involved in her attack that she will not back down because of how the officers handled her case. Victim-centered approaches are often encouraged, but without formal and uniformed training, police officers may still be at a deficit when it comes to dealing with victims of sexual assault and dating violence.
Trinity University Training Campus Police to be Victim Advocates
In 2015, Trinity University in Texas responded to the call of victim advocates to give officers specialized training for dealing with sexual assault victims. Trinity University Police Chief Paul Chapa arranged for “several Trinity police officers [to learn] the special skills needed to respond to sexual assault claims, including empathy, compassion and understanding. They also learned to ask the right questions and provide the right information during these highly sensitive investigations” (Gray 2015). This kind of training is not currently common among police departments on campuses. Chapa reported he believes this addition will lead to better officer-student relations and encourage victims to share information about incidents. (Gray 2015). There has not yet been a review of the effectiveness of this training on Trinity’s campus.
New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault: Pocket Guide for Police Response to Sexual Assault
The New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NYSCASA) compiled a packet of information for the best practices when dealing with victims of sexual assault. According to the overview, “responding to sexual assault calls involves numerous complex and specialized procedures, all of which cannot be covered in detail in this material,” implying that though the information provided is not all-inclusive, it is an important starting point for being able to deal with such sensitive subject matter carefully (NYSCASA 1998).
In compiling this information, the New York State Police, the New York State Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the New York Prosecutors Training Institute, the New York Police Department, the Queens South Task Force, the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, NYSCASA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the NYS Crime Victims Board among others were sought out to give their input (NYSCASA 1998). That well-rounded group of advisors offering input helped to create a system that looks at multiple facets of dealing with sexual assault and dating violence.
The primary responsibilities of a first responding officer are outlined and include such guidance as “be careful not to stigmatize the victim” and “contact your local Rape Crisis Center,” two directives that would not apply to most other cases an officer may respond to while on duty (NYSCASA 1998). The guide goes on in detail to describe how to deal with and interview victims in a way that does not make them feel at fault. That kind of guidance is hugely important and reflects the kind of sensitivity training the President of Hoosier University should be trying to secure for the campus’s police officers. By acknowledging that this extra information and training is necessary to handle sexual assault and dating violence cases, the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault is taking steps to ensure officers in New York are properly trained and prepared to deal with these specialized situations.
Human Rights Watch: Improving Police Response to Sexual Assault
While it is not a specific initiative in and of itself, the compilation of ways in which the Human Rights Watch has recommended to improve police response to sexual assault acts as a sort of master list of best practices from across the country. They say:
“Experts agree that in addition to a victim-centered approach and sensitivity during interviews, improved response to sexual assault cases by police can be linked to increased transparency, meaningful accountability for investigations, leadership, training, and public outreach to encourage reporting. The changes require a change in culture and a commitment by leadership and should not be affected by budgetary considerations” (Human Rights Watch 2013).
The guidelines compiled in the Human Rights Watch report, much like the NYSCASA guidelines cover everything from the initial encounter through the main points of a sexual assault investigation. A victim-centered approach is the focus, and officers are encouraged to put the victims first in a sensitive way not often necessary to utilize in other crimes. Similar to NYSCASA, the beginning of the guidelines focuses on interview techniques, what to ask and what not to ask and approaching victims for follow-up information. According to a section titled “What Not to Ask,” “experts recommend not asking victims during the first interview if they want to pursue a prosecution, unless an immediate arrest is possible. Instead, they suggest waiting until after a more thorough, evidence-based investigation into the crime Experts also strenuously object to threatening victims implicitly or explicitly with charges for false reporting” (Human Rights Watch 2013). In cases dealing with things such as robbery, it would seem odd to avoid bringing up prosecution during the first interview because that would be the fastest and most efficient way to try and reclaim the stolen items or property. Because a sexual assault or dating violence case is so much more sensitive, however, it is important that officers know to be tactful and sensitive to victims.
Ensuring that police officers and first responders are prepared to deal with such sensitive interactions as those that are had with victims of sexual assault and dating violence can be the difference between a victims seeking aid and the prosecution of her attacker and her choosing to suffer silently. By creating resources like that which the Human Rights Watch compiled and using them as guidelines for training people to deal with sexual assault and dating violence, it is possible that victims will be more likely to receive the attention and treatment they need with the respect and dignity they deserve more often.
Obstacles and Challenges
It is not uncommon to hear complaints that officers do not take cases of sexual assault and dating violence seriously. After the Department of Justice spent six years investigating the Baltimore Police Department’s dealings with sexual assault cases, they continued to find evidence of bias and neglect in cases (Fenton & Knezevich 2016). Reports went on to detail incidents in which officers were “’persistently [neglecting]’ to test rape kits or gather forensic evidence, were quick to disregard claims from sex workers, and failed to follow up on indications of serial suspects. In general, the investigators wrote, detectives made ‘minimal to no effort to locate, identify, interrogate, or investigate suspects’” (Fenton & Knezevich 2016). Noting these kinds of practices leads to concerns about whether or not police are dealing with cases by regular protocol standards, let alone with the extra sensitivity and care required to deal with a sexual assault or dating violence case.
This lack of discipline is startlingly common, even on college campuses. Universities across the country have been accused by victims of sexual assault of ignoring the cases presented to them. Consider the case of Jameis Winston at Florida State University. After being accused of assault by one of his fellow students, investigation into accusations against Winston were effectively put on hold while he went on to win a Heisman Trophy (Waldron 2014). It was determined that police did not gather enough evidence to prosecute Winston and that in some cases they appeared to have done so purposefully. Because this kind of attitude and behavior can be seen on college campuses nationwide, it will be a struggle to overcome that relaxed handling of sensitive cases and convince officers of the importance of their roles in helping a victim of sexual assault or dating violence seek justice.
- The President of Hoosier University should enlist a team of victim advocates who are made easily accessible to students who have been sexually assaulted.
A victim advocate is the person looking out for the best interests of the victim as she battles through not only the trauma of an attack, but also with the steps that follow. From counseling to court proceedings, a victim advocate is one of the most important resources a person can have to help navigate things with which they are likely very unfamiliar. Specifically, a victim advocate will support a victim without telling her what she should do, allowing her to make the decision that she believes is best (National Center for Victims of Crime 2016). This type of advocate is different from any other resource a victim may access, and it would be beneficial for the President of Hoosier University to employ victim advocates in order to make them accessible to students.
Many students claim they don’t feel they know what resources they have access to on campus or how to access resources they have heard of (Kingkade 2013). The Association of Title IX Administrators has been encouraging universities to provide free support and advocacy to college students and faculty for years (ATIXA 2015). The ATIXA has stated that while many universities have an abundance of resources available to victims of dating violence and sexual assault, navigating them in a time when a person is at her most vulnerable can be nearly impossible. Having victim advocates made easily accessible to students through something like the university’s health or counseling center would provide students with the access they need.
University of California Berkeley’s Addition of Confidential Survivor Advocate
In the fall of 2014, University of California Berkeley hired their first confidential survivor advocate in response to complaints that the university was not responding quickly, or at times event at all, to incidents of sexual assault (Phillips 2014). Up until the hiring took place, the position was filled by former victims who were willing to help others through a difficult experience. This new position was meant to be filled by an “individual who will work with victims to guide them through everything from seeking out health services and counseling support to changing housing, switching class schedules, filing reports with the school and pressing criminal charges, if they choose to do so” (Phillips 2014). At the time, Berkeley was not the only university making this addition to its staff.
In a time where a more victim-centered approach to sexual assault and dating violence is needed, the addition of this victim advocate can help the university to better respond to such incidents. While there has not yet been an official review of the added position, the idea has continued to gain traction on a national scale. “Two bills proposed in Congress would require colleges and universities that receive federal funding to formally designate a staff member as a confidential adviser for sexual-assault victims,” thus uniformly mandating that a guide would be available to all students in need (Phillips 2014). Currently, the university has three advocates on staff, each with a background in such areas as rape crisis and advocacy (University of California Berkeley 2016). If the President of Hoosier University should decide to add this position and hire victim advocates, he may be ahead of a required curve depending on Congress’ decision.
University of Tampa’s Victim Advocacy
The University of Tampa has a specific victim advocacy program with a variety of services available to any student in need. Advocates are made easily accessible through a victim advocate hotline or through a website on the university’s page (University of Tampa 2016). These advocates are beneficial to all victims of violent crime and can be tapped for services ranging from providing information to ensuring safety on or off campus to contacting other resources needed by victims.
The data reported has shown a decline in campus rapes. However, there is some debate as to how accurate that information is and how well it relates to the work of victim advocates due to the fact that the university is only reporting data for incidents that occur on the campus (Bakeman & Cheney 2016). Without that data, it is difficult to further consider the benefits of a victim advocate.
Obstacles and Challenges
As with any other resource a person may have made available to them, the question of ensuring that people are aware of a victim advocate may be one of the first things for the President of Hoosier University to tackle. A hire like this is hugely important to improving a victim’s chance of find the resources she needs, but if victims are unaware they have access to an advocate, little can change.
A lack of advocates could also pose a problem for the university. Hiring the right amount of advocates to fit in the budget and meet demand may be difficult, but it will likely prove necessary if the President of Hoosier University wants to see any kind of positive results from the addition of victim advocates.
Dating violence and sexual assault on college campuses can have intensely negative effects on students and the campus community as a whole. The President of Hoosier University has the opportunity to bring an end to dating violence and sexual assault on college campuses by educating students about the dangers of alcohol and its relation to violence, by creating a public awareness campaign that encourages open dialogue about sexual assault and dating violence as well as the resources a person can access after suffering from either incident, by including sensitivity training for campus police officers to deal with victims of dating violence and sexual assault and by heading a team of victim advocates who are easily accessible to student who have fallen victim to sexual assault and dating violence. Though education and a public awareness campaign, the campus community will become more open to discussing and helping those who have been victims of dating violence and sexual assault. Victims may also become more likely to report incidents that have occurred to them. Training campus police officers to deal specifically with dating violence and sexual assault victims and providing students with free and accessible advocates will prevent offenders from being able to escape their actions without consequences. I believe that through these efforts the President of Hoosier University will be able to create a better, safer environment for his students and diminish the frequency of dating violence and sexual assault on campus.
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