By Rachel Yehoda, Program Coordinator (Prevention and Education)
Sexual assault continues to be a pervasive public health problem plaguing our college and university campuses across the nation. In response to this issue, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault was formed in 2014 to address the issue of sexual assault and sexual misconduct at the college and university level. Focusing its efforts on preventing sexual assault, the Task Force has helped schools more effectively conduct campus climate surveys and assisted schools in developing better campus policies to address sexual misconduct.
In January 2017, the White House Task Force released a new document entitled Preventing and Addressing Campus Sexual Misconduct: A Guide for University and College Presidents, Chancellors, and Senior Administrators. As suggested by the guide’s title, it is intended to be used by individuals in leadership positions at colleges and universities, and covers six main subject areas related to sexual misconduct on campus: 1) Coordinated Campus and Community Response, 2) Prevention and Education, 3) Policy Development and Implementation, 4) Reporting Options, Advocacy, and Support Services, 5) Climate Surveys, Performance Measurement, and Evaluation, and 6) Transparency. Within each of these focus areas, the guide provides recommendations for colleges and universities to improve their prevention and response efforts. Recommendations include adopting a social norms campaigns on campus (e.g. the “It’s On Us” campaign), providing prevention-focused programming for students, and developing policies to address sexual misconduct. The guide also provides recommendations on addressing the needs of diverse student populations (e.g. LGBTQ students, students of color, students with disabilities, etc.) in campus prevention programs. For a more in-depth look at the guidelines, please click here.
In addition to this guide, on January 5th, 2017, Vice President Joe Biden released A Call to Action for College and University Presidents, Chancellors, and Senior Administrators: Step Up on Sexual Assault. This powerful call to action outlines how far we’ve come in addressing the issue of sexual violence and the progress that still needs to be made. It emphasizes the responsibility that all of us have in the fight against sexual violence and how college and university administrators can act as crucial advocates for change at their respective institutions. To read the Call to Action letter, please click here.
The recommendations presented in this guide address many important elements of preventing and responding to sexual assault in the campus setting. Please note that these recommendations do not indicate a “one size fits all” approach; each college and university has unique needs and should consider those needs when developing a plan to address sexual assault on their campus. By tailoring their plans to their respective student communities, colleges and universities can better address the specific problems their students face.