Newspaper article News Sentinel

New Laws Pull Campus Violence into Focus ; Colleges Provide Fuller Picture of Sexual Assaults

Newspaper article News Sentinel

New Laws Pull Campus Violence into Focus ; Colleges Provide Fuller Picture of Sexual Assaults

Article excerpt

NASHVILLE -- New federal regulations now require colleges to log incidents of domestic assault, dating violence and stalking -- in addition to sexual assaults -- in their annual campus safety reports, which had to be completed this month.

Local advocates say the additional data provide a clearer picture of the realities of sexual violence on campus.

"Sexual violence doesn't happen in a vacuum," said Kathy Walsh, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. "If you really want to address sexual violence, you have to address dating violence, intimate partner violence and stalking."

The rules, part of amendments to the Violence Against Women Act and the Clery Act, also require colleges to work to prevent those crimes.

Although the changes went into effect in July, Tennessee colleges have been scrambling to meet them for more than a year. Nonprofits, including the Tennessee Coalition, have hosted roundtables, workshops and conferences as colleges big and small developed and refined policies to address the issues.

Still, the latest numbers suggest that many schools have work left to do.

The Tennessean's review of the latest campus safety reports shows several large colleges reporting low incidence of violence in 2014. Tennessee State University in Nashville logged two sexual assaults but no cases of dating violence, domestic violence or stalking.

At the higher end, Middle

See campus, 13A

Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro counted six sexual assaults and eight instances of domestic violence. And the University of Tennessee's Knoxville campus reported 11 sexual assaults and no acts of dating violence.

Still others -- such as Motlow State Community College in McMinnville -- have no reported incidents of sexual violence between 2012 and 2014. One explanation for this is that Tennessee's community colleges don't have residence halls, where most on-campus sexual assaults are reported.

But at Vanderbilt University, where a high-profile rape case and federal investigation have drawn national attention, the numbers jump dramatically. Vanderbilt reported 23 sexual assaults, 11 acts of domestic violence, 16 acts of dating violence and 24 acts of stalking during 2014.

Walsh said higher reporting numbers are not necessarily an indication that more crimes are occurring at Vanderbilt. Instead, she said, Vanderbilt's numbers might be a sign that victims feel safe enough to reach out for help.

"I think that can be an indicator that Vanderbilt is doing a better job of reaching out on campus," Walsh said. "When victims find out that a university is handling an issue well, they're more likely to come forward and report it."

response at Vanderbilt

Administrators at Vanderbilt say they've responded to recent high- profile controversies with a robust array of programs to prevent sexual violence and support victims.

In 2013, four former Vanderbilt football players were charged with raping a female student in a dorm room, a case that is still making its way through the court system. The university remains under review by federal education officials, spurred by six current and former female students who filed a complaint about how Vanderbilt has handled cases of sexual misconduct.

Last year, the university created a free-standing space for the Project Safe program, which provides sexual assault education and victim resources. That initiative, and the addition of extra staff members, has coincided with the rollout of several new programs targeting sexual assault and other violence at Vanderbilt.

In 2014, for the first time, resident assistants who live alongside Vanderbilt students were required to complete six hours of "Green Dot" training on bystander intervention. Fraternity pledges also are required to complete the training.

Vanderbilt also added sexual assault awareness training for faculty and staff. …

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