Sexual Assault: What Colleges Can Do
Campus-based sexual assault programs should have three goals: to educate students, faculty, and staff about sexual violence (order materials); to prevent sexual assaults involving members of the campus community; and to provide an appropriate response when sexual assaults occur.
These goals can be achieved when colleges implement effective policies, protocols, service delivery systems, security measures, and educational activities.
A comprehensive campus program for responding to the problem of sexual assault includes the following ten components:
Official policy statement: Develop and give to every student an official, written policy statement regarding sexual misconduct. Include information about the definition and prevalence of sexual assault, the circumstances in which it commonly occurs, what to do if it happens, university sanctions, campus resources, and prevention strategies. The policy should strongly encourage victims to report these incidents.
Definition of sexual misconduct: Provide the campus community with a clear definition of the behaviors that constitute sexual assault and other forms of sexual misconduct that the university considers unacceptable and sanctionable. The same definition should be used in the institution's sexual assault policy statement and the student conduct code provisions that prohibit sexual misconduct.
Protocol for managing reported cases: Formulate a written "action plan" that outlines how the school will respond when incidents of sexual misconduct are reported, including who will be notified, what procedures will be implemented, and how the rights of victims and accused students will be protected. Formalized procedures help ensure that victims receive the support and services they need, as well as facilitate compliance with school policies and legal mandates.
Systems for gathering and disseminating information about sexual misconduct: Initiate systems for obtaining information about incidents of sexual misconduct that impact members of the campus community -- reported cases as well as those that are not officially brought to the attention of authorities. Develop methods for informing the campus community about these incidents, including strategies for giving "timely warnings" as required by federal law.
Comprehensive services for victims: Establish a coordinated network of services to ensure that victims have access to the range of medical, legal, psychological, safety, advocacy, and other support services they need. Campus-based and/or community resources should be utilized.
Educational programs: Institute comprehensive educational programs that reach all members of the campus community. Utilize a variety of strategies to provide students, faculty, and staff with opportunities to acquire information about sexual assault and develop behavioral skills that will enable them to enhance their own personal safety, as well as contribute to the safety of other members of the campus community.
Clear student conduct code provisions: Ensure that the college or university's conduct code specifically addresses the problem of sexual assault. Code provisions should include a strong prohibition against sexual misconduct, a clear definition of the school's jurisdiction in these cases, and a listing of the rights and protections the school affords both victims and accused students.
Fair disciplinary procedures: Establish procedures that ensure fairness to both victims and accused students. Educate hearing panel members about the unique characteristics of sexual assault and sexual misconduct cases. Provide safeguards to prevent conflict-of-interest situations in disciplinary proceedings.
Campus security measures: Implement state-of-the-art security measures to decrease the risk of sexual assaults on campus, including adequate lighting, effective residence hall security systems, escort services, timely notifications of reported crimes, and ongoing information campaigns. It is important to involve all members of the campus community in assessing and contributing to security efforts that enhance their safety.
Ongoing assessment of policies, procedures, and programs: Conduct regular and timely evaluations of all campus sexual assault policies and programs.