10 Apr 17
April is known as Sexual Assault Awareness Month across the country. This epidemic impacts nearly one in five college women and one in 16 college men. Colleges and universities around the world are working to combat campus sexual assault. Here are some of the recently launched initiatives that have been launched in the past few years that have made a positive impact on students and faculty across the country.
In September 2014, the It’s on Us campaign was launched by the Obama Administration, and continues today through former Vice President Joe Biden’s nonprofit, The Biden Foundation. The organization’s call to action is that “it’s on us” to stop sexual assault. According to the organization, “the campaign seeks to reframe the conversation surrounding sexual assault in a way that empowers, educates, and engages college students to do something, big or small, to prevent it.” In the last three years, over 530 schools in 48 states have hosted over 1,400 It’s on Us events, and over 275,000 individuals have taken the It’s on Us pledge.
Schools across the country, like Michigan State University, have found the campaign to be successful. Because of the positive impact the campaign had during the fall semester, the university decided to host an “It’s on Us Week of Action” in late March. The goal of the week is to “reinforce key messages [that] students received at the start of the school year.” One of the highlights of the week was an open forum that gave students the chance to discuss sexual assault openly and freely. Michigan State University’s Title IX Coordinator Jessica Norris told The State News “the open forum is always particularly enlightening because it gives you a lot of insight into what the community’s thoughts and feelings are around this issue, and it really helps direct our work for the coming year so the feedback that we get from the campus community in that open forum fuels the development of action plans.”
The National College Athletic Association (NCAA) has worked to take a stand against sexual assault in the world of college athletics. In April 2015, the NCAA issued a call to action to all members, including colleges and universities, to work to prevent sexual assault across the country. The program has five core commitments: leadership, collaboration, compliance and accountability, education, and student-athlete engagement.
The first core commitment is leadership. The NCAA is looking for athletic directors and university presidents to take the lead in creating a culture change on campus. Athletic directors need to have all student-athletes and athletic staff members on the same page, otherwise the status quo will persist.
The second core commitment is collaboration. The NCAA believes that the best way to prevent sexual assault is to collaborate with as many organizations on campus as possible. Organizations to work with include student life, campus safety departments, housing and residence life, Greek organizations, and the Title IX coordinator. When more people across diverse groups stand up and speak out against sexual assault and spread the word about prevention, the likelihood that the message is accepted and adopted increases.
The third core commitment is compliance and accountability. Colleges and universities need to comply with any and all federal laws, including Title IX and the Clery Act. The NCAA states that “when athletics department staff and student-athletes embrace their accountability for sexual violence prevention, they serve as agents of broader cultural change.”
The fourth core commitment is education. Education programming at each institution should meet the needs of student-athletes. Additionally, there should be education geared toward those individuals that help shape the student-athletes, including coaches, training staff, sports medicine staff, etc.
The fifth and final core commitment is student-athlete engagement. Student-athletes need to be a part of the planning process for sexual assault programming for their peers. By doing so, they will feel empowered to make a difference within their teams and their schools in general. One of the ways students are empowered is by participating in their universities’ sexual assault programming, such as getting involved with It’s on Us, which is a partner with the NCAA.
You can view the NCAA’s Sexual Violence Prevention Tool Kit here.
Technology continues to advance and change the way students navigate their way through college; it has completely reshaped the entire college experience. Students and app developers have taken initiative to help prevent campus sexual assault by creating mobile apps to report sexual assault, to make it easier to intervene in hazardous situations, or to make sure your friends get home safely. One new app, Blert!, allows students to discreetly and directly reach out to their campus safety departments. Whether they have questions, want to report suspicious activity, have a request for service, or need to report a crime anonymously, this app can do it all.
How can an app like Blert! help with sexual assault prevention on college campuses? Often times, students do not know what to do when an incident like this one may occur. The Blert! app has student guides built in to the app, which each university can customize with their own policies and procedures. Should a student want to report a sexual assault, they can do so through the app. When students feel safe on campus and are knowledgeable about their surroundings, sexual assaults tend to go down. To learn more about Blert, click here.