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Risk in Context

5 Best Practices to Help Reduce Sexual Assaults on College Campuses

Posted by Jean Demchak May 26, 2016

Sexual assaults on college campuses —considered a form of workplace violence — remain a major challenge for the education sector today despite more than 40 years of legislation that includes the Higher Education Act (1965), Title IX Education Amendments (1972), Clery Act (1990), and the Violence Against Women Act (1994).

According to a United Educators (UE) study of sexual assault-related insurance claims filed by colleges and universities between 2011 and 2013, 60% of the incidents occurred on campus, according to research on campus sexual assaults. A single incident can be devastating physically and emotionally for a victim and in terms of staff morale and appeal of the institution to prospective students. And the financial impact from lawsuits and reputational damage can be considerable.

The 2013 VAWA Amendment to the Clery Act, which requires schools to report a broader range of sexual violence incidents, and the 2014 Title IX Q&A Guidance provided the impetus for these guidelines. Based on those laws, schools should consider the following among their measures to reduce sexual assaults on campus:

  1. Educate during new student orientation: Sexual assaults and other issues are most likely to occur during the first 90 days a college freshmen spends on campus. Therefore, colleges and universities should integrate sexual assault awareness and prevention programs into their mandatory student orientation programs.
  2. Replicate Bill 967: Similar to California’s affirmative consent legislation, schools should consider developing and instituting a mandatory curriculum that covers “yes means yes” and the consequences of sexual violence.
  3. Reinforce each term:  Schools should ensure that they reinforce education on sexual assault awareness and prevention each school term and not just during orientation or the freshman year.
  4. Provide online support: Universities and colleges should provide resources on student-life websites that provide information about how students can report sexual abuse, campus safety, help hotlines, and other support services.
  5. Educate faculty and staff on their roles: Faculty and staff need to understand their roles and responsibility to report instances of alleged sexual assaults — regardless of who the perpetrator may be: faculty, students, or others.

Sexual assault is a persistent and devastating type of workplace violence that is prevalent on US college campuses. By developing and following recommended best practices and implementing effective strategies to raise awareness and follow protocols, colleges can better protect their students, faculty, visitors, reputation, and bottom lines.   

Related to:  Education Risks , Education

Jean Demchak