It is not just those of us who work in higher education, but stakeholders throughout the United States who are paying attention to sexual violence on college and university campuses. At institutions across the country, administrators are working with students, faculty and staff to increase reporting, provide trauma-informed services to survivors, and prevent violence by changing campus culture. Prevention work is an especially challenging part of this effort: progress can be slow and it is frequently difficult to document its successes. Thanks to updates in federal legislation and enforcement, sexual violence prevention on campus is a renewed priority: colleges are legally required to administer prevention programming for all incoming students, as well as on-going awareness campaigns for the entire campus. Culture of Respect recognizes the importance and unique difficulties of prevention, and is committed to supporting college administrators in making evidence-based decisions around prevention efforts.
One demonstration of that commitment is the Prevention Programming Matrix featured on the Culture of Respect website; the Matrix is a valuable and easy-to-use tool for campus stakeholders who are tasked with planning prevention and awareness programming for students. The Matrix includes one-page overviews of over 30 programs that are (1) based in evidence and driven by theory and (2) available for implementing at schools across the United States.
When deciding on a prevention program, administrations are faced with many considerations, such as the needs of the student body, budget constraints, and the time commitment asked of students. It is essential for campus administrators to focus on the strength of the program’s curricula and how it will help contribute to a culture change on campus. Below is a summary of a few key concepts that are common components of many programs offered.
Bystander Intervention. Bystander intervention is now a central element of violence prevention efforts not only because it is supported by a robust research base, but because it is federally mandated through the Campus SaVE Act. Bystander intervention is a community-based prevention approach that asks students to accept responsibility for intervening in situations where violence might occur. But for bystander intervention to be successful, campus administrators, faculty and staff must work together to create an environment that supports students who come forward to take action or report violence. It is important that prevention education efforts, in addition to institutional policies and procedures, are supportive to bystanders.
Addressing Diversity. Prevention programs are responding to what we in higher education know is true – our college campuses are diverse places, and sexual violence impacts all students differently. Programs can demonstrate a true commitment to the importance of intersectionality by addressing head-on how students’ complex identities intersect with sexual violence. For example, Agent of Change, an online program from We End Violence, does this effectively by exploring how racial stereotypes feed rape myths. Alternatively, colleges can offer differentiated programming that speaks specifically to identity-based groups on campus. BOUT That Life is a bystander intervention workshop that helps participants identify how historical and cultural influences impact students of color.
Empathy-Building. Though survivors of sexual violence have long been shamed and silenced, the recent wave of student activism is starting to turn this tide. Many programs, like Not Anymore from Student Success, feature survivor stories, either portrayed by actors or real survivors. These narratives can be extremely impactful because part of creating a campus that is responsive to sexual violence is ensuring students believe survivors and support them in seeking the resources they need. These stories can be triggering for students who have already experienced violence – so letting students know about support resources on campus is crucial.
Interactive Programming. Educators know that active participation is key to learning. In-person workshops led in small groups allow students to participate fully. But for large presentations or online programs, active engagement can be a big challenge. Those who offer sexual violence prevention and awareness programs are meeting this challenge by building interactions into program design. U Got This!, a new online program offered by Catharsis productions, uses Interactive Conversation® software to maximize student engagement. Participants are asked to react to content, and their reactions determine the sequence of the course. InterACT is a performance-based program that achieves engagement by inviting audience members to go on stage and try and prevent violence from occurring. Whatever the format of programming offered to students on your campus, consider the best ways to keep them actively involved.
Each program review on the Culture of Respect website addresses these four factors for prevention programming and includes learning objectives, methods, the theoretical basis, and information for accessing the program, to aid administrators with their prevention program decision-making. For example, the reviews can be helpful for Title IX coordinators who are responsible for selecting optional or required programming for undergraduate or graduate students. These resources may also be helpful for other campus stakeholders such as student activists, faculty, or staff members who are invested in ensuring that their institution’s prevention efforts are meaningful and effective.
Prevention efforts are critical, but in order to build a Culture of Respect across campus, prevention programming must be an integrated, ongoing effort that reaches all members of the community. It is important for institutions to think beyond standard periods for prevention programming such as orientation and Sexual Assault Awareness Month and to make it an ongoing priority throughout students’ entire academic experience.
Culture of Respect is launching an array of new programs this fall, including the Culture of Respect Collective. The Collective is an interactive online platform that guides colleges stakeholders through a step-by-step program to improve their institutional efforts to improve their institutional efforts to prevent and respond to campus sexual violence. Visit www.cultureofrespect.org to find out how your campus can get involved.