Addressing Sexual Assault on College Campuses: Guidelines for a Prevention/awareness Week

Article excerpt

The authors discuss concepts that are related to providing education and training regarding sexual assault, as outlined by the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990, as amended in 1992. Because college counseling center staff members often initiate and plan campus outreach prevention programs, an outline is provided of a prevention/awareness week intervention that is designed to address sexual assault on university and college campuses.

Sexual assault has become an important issue on college and university campuses in recent years. In a landmark study, Koss, Gidycz, and Wisniewski (1987) found that 1 out of every 4 women on college and university campuses had been victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault. Victims who knew their perpetrator(s) made up the majority of all sexual assaults reported. Slightly more than half of all reported sexual assaults occurred during a date with the perpetrator. The study also revealed that 1 in 12 college men had engaged in behavior that met the legal definition of sexual assault, although the majority of the male participants did not believe that their actions were illegal. In addition, 33% of the men surveyed reported that they would engage in sexual assault if they could be assured (or knew) that they would not be punished for their actions.

Because of the prevalence of sexual assaults on college campuses, institutions have been directed by the federal government to provide programming aimed at educating students about sexual assault; this directive is an attempt to prevent sexual offenses on university and college campuses. Although colleges and universities have received this directive from the federal government to address sexual assault on campuses, institutions of higher education have had difficulties implementing aspects of the prevention mandate (Burling, 1993). Specifically, campus officials struggle with identifying the most effective way to educate students about sexual assault. Although polices and protocols may be discussed in student handbooks and orientation, this method of transmitting information may not be successful in educating students. Few students may actually read handbooks that contain a significant amount of information, and new students may be overwhelmed with information during the typically short orientation period. I nstitutions, therefore, need to consider designing prevention programs that reach students during the course of their college experience (Burling, 1993).

University counseling center staff members often play a vital role in planning and implementing prevention programs. Counselors offer unique and valuable perspectives because they work with victims and survivors of sexual assault. It is likely that students who have been victims of sexual assault will first seek help from the university counseling center. Therefore, important contributions of university counselors include (a) assuring sensitivity to victims in all programs, (b) helping the public understand a victim's experience, and (c) paving the way for more victims to feel safe asking for assistance. In addition, counselors can often function as student advocate, specifically victim advocate, on campuses. Through awareness events, such as a sexual assault awareness week, counselors can advocate for the prevention of violence against women within the campus community, as well as advocate for the needs of victims.

The purpose of this article is to provide counselors and other university personnel with an outline of a weeklong prevention program that is designed to educate students on sexual assault issues. A history is also presented of policies that guide the education efforts of university personnel.

The Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act and Amendments

The increase in the number of sexual assaults on college campuses throughout the United States led to the development and passage of the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990 (or the Campus Security Act), which was signed into law by President George H. …