Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Renewed Violence against Women Act Addresses Traditional and New Issues

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Renewed Violence against Women Act Addresses Traditional and New Issues

Article excerpt

When officials at Bowie State University began beefing up their campus sexual assault and sexual violence safety training program for employees and students this month, it was more than a single institution's response to a specific situation.

With campus violence, especially rape and sexual harassment of women, more common than most people realize, Bowie State's enhanced effort is part of a federally mandated nationwide effort to address campus safety by asking over 4,000 colleges and universities to take the issue of campus rape and sexual assaults more seriously.

"It's really a renewed focus to ensure that students and employees understand," says Melanie Barr-Brooks, director of Equal Employment Opportunity at Bowie State.

This month's effort is the third major initiative since the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), sponsored by then-U.S. Senator Joe Biden, was enacted 20 years ago by Congress to address rape and violence against women on America's college campuses. The law has since gone through several waves of clarification, yet the "guidance has been somewhat unclear," notes Barr-Brooks.

The new effort promises more clarity and "guidance" on how institutions should respond, who can and should respond and what's expected of institution employees and students, explains Barr-Brooks.

The new guidance for institutions stems from the renewed VAWA law, the recently passed Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (SaVE Act) and work by the White House Council on Women and Girls. These efforts received a boost in importance when President Obama established a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault earlier this year.

The guidance from the Justice Department and the Department of Education provides colleges and universities with what the federal government calls a "baseline framework" for responding to what it calls "sexual assault" and other "intimate partner violence."

The new education and action training covers a broad range of issues related to campus violence, particularly rape and sexual assault. It provides institutions with more definitions than in the past of stalking, sexual assault and related offenses.

The training also addresses some aspects of potential social media sexual offense, and requires institutions to train students and employees on so-called "bystander" involvement in halting campus violence and sexual offenses.

The updated federal law also requires institutions to have a well-known procedure for handling cases and to provide third-party advocates for the accuser and accused in cases of alleged rape and sexual misconduct. …

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