During the next few weeks, hundreds of thousands of incoming college students will attend orientations, start classes, and join an institution where an estimated 350 rapes occur annually for every 10,000 female students on campus.
Sexual assault has reached epidemic levels on college campuses, but administrators are slowly taking notice thanks to 1) the willingness of more survivors -- both named and anonymous -- to come forward and share their experiences, 2) collaborative efforts between students and faculty to raise awareness and develop strategies (for example, the Oxy Sexual Assault Coalition), and 3) widespread pressure stemming from complaints filed with the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.
During the past six months a series of federal complaints were filed with the Office of Civil Rights against schools including Occidental College, the University of Southern California, the University of North Carolina, Swarthmore, Dartmouth, Berkeley, and the University of Colorado, Boulder. The complaints allege violations of the Jean Clery Act and mishandling of sexual assault cases on campus, and have resulted in multiple investigations.
Campuses must be held accountable for student safety. Many schools have taken purposeful and thoughtful steps to improve their policies; however, on many other campuses the same inadequate polices remain.
According to the National Institute of Justice, students face the highest risk of sexual assault during the first few months of the school year. With the start of the school year approaching fast it's time to find out whether your campus has taken positive steps to improve their sexual assault prevention and response policies, and there's a quick and easy way to ask what, exactly, they are doing.
By using the hashtag #AskYourCampus and tweeting to your school (or via facebook), we can collectively and publicly share our questions, learn about the positive steps campuses are taking improve policies and programming, and continue drawing attention to those campuses where change has yet to come. The more students, alumni, parents, and faculty we have asking questions and demanding answers, the closer we get to seeing effective sexual assault prevention and response policies and programming as a reality on every campus.
No matter the response -- and some campuses may not respond -- every effort continues the discussion and contributes to the ongoing movement to stop sexual violence on college campuses. Some questions to consider asking, depending on the situation at your school:
- What are you doing to improve sexual assault prevention and response policies?
- Why are sexual assault prevention programs only aimed at women?
- Thank you for taking our concerns seriously -- how else can I become involved?
- How can we shift the conversation from avoid rape to stop raping?
- Will you commit to taking every sexual assault case seriously?
- How do policies account for survivors who are not able-bodied, heterosexual, or legally documented?
- Why don't our campus Clery Act stats match the reported sexual assaults?
Sexual assault resources, anti-violence organizations, and support groups vary from campus to campus; however, an on-line resource called Know Your IX (KYIX) seeks to empower students to stop sexual violence and provides practical information on Title IX, the Clery Act, forming a campus organization, building a campus movement, as well as a space for sharing survivor stories. Additionally the site provides detailed advice on reporting harassment, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.