“In last week’s article, I painted a very depressing picture of the reality of rape on college campuses. And, at the end, I promised I would provide some insight into how our institutions are responding to this issue. To begin with, we should all be aware that in 1990 Congress enacted laws-the Clery Act as an example- requiring higher educational institutions to 1) develop strategies for prevention and response to sexual assault on campus and 2) provide students and their guardians accurate information regarding campus crime.””
In last week’s article, I painted a very depressing picture of the reality of rape on college campuses. And, at the end, I promised I would provide some insight into how our institutions are responding to this issue.
To begin with, we should all be aware that in 1990 Congress enacted laws-the Clery Act as an example- requiring higher educational institutions to 1) develop strategies for prevention and response to sexual assault on campus and 2) provide students and their guardians accurate information regarding campus crime.
If our colleges and universities have been mandated by law for the last twenty years to provide these strategies, responses, and statistics, then why is rape on our college campuses still such a problem?
As it turns out, the Office of Justice Programs, a division within the U.S. Department of Justice that focuses on crime prevention through research, development, and assistance to law enforcement and victims of crime, did a study in 2002, Campus Sexual Assault: How America’s Institutions of Higher Education Respond, which sought answers to these very questions.
The study found that approximately two-thirds of schools need a lot more guidance to help them comply more fully and consistently with Federal laws. Some of the problem is having difficulty interpreting and applying the Federal reporting requirements, including deciding which incidents to report, how to classify certain crimes, or even understanding definitions of terms like campus or student.
The researchers recommend development of a policy that includes explicit and behavioral definitions of consent, sexual offenses, and other terminology and practices (Sexual Assault on Campus: What Colleges and Universities Are Doing About It) to combat some of these challenges and more appropriately and effectively respond to rapes on campus.
In their report they identify some successful practices in the areas of prevention, sexual assault policy, reporting, investigation, adjudication, and victim support services, including the following:
Prevention should include a campus-wide sexual assault educational program provided through student orientations, curriculum infusion, resource center trainings, campus events, and public forums that educates about rape myths, common circumstances, rapist characteristics, prevention strategies, rape trauma responses and healing processes, and campus policies and support services.
Sexual assault policy should be accessible, widely distributed and reader-friendly. The policy should include, among several other things, clearly defined definitions and expectations regarding sexual conduct, approaching all forms of sexual misconduct, what constitutes as consent and what constitutes sexual assault. In addition, the policy should address the prevalence of nonstranger sexual assault; advise what to do if the student or someone they know is sexually assaulted; list available campus and community resources; encourage reporting; and identify the sanctions for violating this policy.
Schools should allow reporting to be anonymous, confidential, and/or third-party. This study recommends that reporting and response policy allow the victim to participate in the decision making, providing them some control over the process as they go through the campus adjudication and/or law enforcement system.
Investigative protocol should ensure the confidentiality of the victim and the accused and reduce the amount of times the victim has to retell the experience.
Adjudication options should range from informal administrative actions, not requiring a formal complaint, to a formal adjudication hearing. All proceedings, however, should follow a reputable, documented, and consistent system which serves to balance the rights of the complainant and the accused.
Schools and communities should partner to provide student victims access to a network of comprehensive service providers, including medical, psychological, legal, and safety.
Certainly, if our nation’s higher-educational settings worked on the development and successful execution of sexual assault policies and protocols, we would effectively prevent and reduce the occurrences of rape. I urge all of us to investigate our own procedures in response to sexual assault on campus, making sure we are involved in doing everything possible to reduce this crime at our own university.