Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Not Alone: As Title IX Complaints Increase, the Government's Efforts to Combat Sexual Assault Strengthen

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Not Alone: As Title IX Complaints Increase, the Government's Efforts to Combat Sexual Assault Strengthen

Article excerpt

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There were 30 Title IX complaints in 2013 against U.S. colleges concerning their mishandling of sexual assault cases and 55 in the first half of 2014. With the additional coverage when President Obama established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault this past January, the issue of sexual assault has already seen an unprecedented amount of attention this year.

"I've seen so many students attach their name to a case of sexual violence, whereas in the past students would maybe identify as Jane Doe," says Alison Kiss, executive director for The Clery Center for Security on Campus. "Students are saying, 'I really want to see changes on my campus for other students and change across the country.'

"The White House is paying attention to students and consulting with advocates and professionals in higher education across the country," Kiss continues. "Its first report really provided some concrete examples of things that schools can do to identify what they have now and how to change the culture and climate on campus."

Released in late April, the report, titled "Not Alone," recommends steps to improve the federal governments existing efforts and policies going forward; best practices for preventing sexual assault; and that colleges implement campus climate surveys on the issue. It also explains how to respond effectively when a victim comes forward.

"What I think the task force adds to the conversation is that it provides more guidance and provides more resources to campuses," says Holly Rider-Milkovich, director of the University of Michigan's Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center. "We have heard from this administration that enforcement of the laws that currently exist is a priority. [So I think the task force] has refocused institutions or has [led institutions for the first time to address this issue in a comprehensive fashion."

Partnering with universities

The report notes that three universities have committed to developing research projects that will help find new solutions in addressing campus sexual assault. Among the universities cited is the University of New Hampshire's Prevention Innovations, which will design and evaluate a training program for incoming students on sexual assault policies and expectations for conduct.

While flattered that the university has received recognition for its leadership in the field, Amy Culp, interim director and direct services coordinator at the University of New Hampshire's Sexual Harassment & Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) center, says that this renewed call is long overdue, as it has long been known that women ages 16 to 24 are at the highest risk for sexual assault and one in five women is assaulted while in college.

By having its peer advocacy program credited as a course and in building a much more community-based support center that works with direct services, education and outreach, Culp believes UNH has stood out among the crowd and been more effective. Though the task force has launched a website called NotAlone.gov to assist universities in further developing its programs, Culp says she'd like to see model set-ups on the site.

"The website is a good start and should be a 'work in progress,' as the discussions about these issues continue," she says. "I would like to see the website show some 'model' colleges and university programs as resources."

On the homepage, visitors are offered sections for resources, data, students and schools. Legal guidance and explanations of FERPA, the Clery Act and Title IX are all delineated there, along with the premises of confidentiality and a guide to drafting sexual assault policy. …

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