Sexual Assault on Campus: What We Can Do

By Nicole Greene, Acting Director, Office on Women’s Health

*Originally published on the Women’s Health blog on September 27, 2017″

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Content Warning: Sexual Assault

One in five undergraduate women (PDF – 282 KB) are sexually assaulted during college. When I think about that number, I want to change it so everyone is safe. This National Campus Safety Awareness Month, I encourage you to support the theme “Take the First Step” and work to create a safe campus.

The Office on Women’s Health is committed to preventing sexual assault on college and university campuses. That’s why we launched the College Sexual Assault Policy and Prevention Initiative. This initiative provides technical assistance and support for implementing sexual assault policies and prevention strategies on college campuses.

At just a year into the initiative, we’re encouraged by the programs being implemented around the country. Schools are conducting bystander intervention trainings that are focused on fraternity and sorority advisors. Others are offering awareness and prevention video resources. Some have been conducting trainings on trauma-informed responses for their staff and incorporating messages about consent and bystander intervention into fall festivals.

I’m personally excited about these programs and prevention activities because they address this issue from multiple angles: awareness, prevention, intervention, and response. Demonstrating to students that their schools are aware of this issue and care enough to provide these activities and resources is a huge step in the right direction. So, what else can we do to help prevent sexual assault?

What Communities Can Do

Education about sexual assault and consent begins long before college, in the messages children receive from their parents and other adults. We can plant the seed of consent and respect in children from an early age with this simple lesson: People should not touch each other without asking first. As children grow, the messages grow with them. We also all have a role in modeling respectful and consensual interactions, both sexual and nonsexual. In addition, community members should pay attention to their local and state policies and legislation, and they should advocate for positive change in support of sexual violence prevention efforts and effective reporting and supportive services for survivors.

What Colleges Can Do

Administrators, faculty, staff, and coaches must work with students to implement comprehensive prevention programs. Schools should consider teaching consent and healthy relationship/communication skills throughout the academic year, institute stricter intolerance policies on assault, and make it clear that sexual assault has no place in higher education.

What Students Can Do

Students have a large role in preventing sexual assault of others, too. If they see someone at risk for assault, they can help prevent it by using the C.A.R.E. bystander intervention technique: Create a distraction, Ask the person directly, Refer to an authority like a resident assistant or security guard, and Enlist others’ help.

Every person on campus has a role to play in eradicating sexual assault from universities and colleges. When your sons and daughters go off to college, remind them what respecting themselves and others looks like. After that, it’s up to them to make the right choices and for the colleges to support them.

This National Campus Safety Awareness Month, I encourage students, administrators, faculty, and coaches to take the first steps together to prevent sexual assault. For more info on preventing sexual assault, visit Sexual Violence on Campus: Strategies for Prevention (PDF – 3.5 MB) and STOP SV (PDF – 2.85 MB).


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Nicole Greene serves as Deputy Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health (OWH) and acts as the primary advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health — Women’s Health. A former Council for Excellence in Government Fellow and a graduate of the prestigious Leadership for a Democratic Society program through the Federal Executive Institute, Ms. Greene leads change management in the office. One of her first projects at OWH was to lead the restructuring of OWH, improving the efficiency and effectiveness by aligning the mission of the Office so it can better serve American women and girls. Read more here.

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Strengthening the Domestic Violence Field: Building the Evaluation Capacity of Community-Based Organizations

By: Dr. Rebecca Rodriguez, Martha Martinez-Hernandez, MPA, and Dr. Josie Serrata

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Domestic violence organizations are tasked with providing evidence to funders and other stakeholders that their programs have a positive impact on program participants. For some organizations, evaluation can seem like a daunting task, especially if they have limited internal capacity, or do not have experience conducting their own evaluations in a way that is palatable to external stakeholders.  This is the reality faced by many small community-based organizations (CBOs) working in the field of domestic violence across the United States, in particular for those working with communities that have been historically marginalized.

Responding to the need for CBOs to document their work—while understanding that perhaps not all of us have experience with evaluation—the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities (NLN), a project of Casa de Esperanza, set about making the evaluation process accessible and practitioner-friendly.  Led by their research and evaluation team, the NLN partnered with several Latina community-based organizations from across the country (La Paz, Trans Latina Coalition, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, Voces Latinas, Casa de Esperanza’s Amigos program) to develop the Building Evidence Evaluation Toolkit,  a free web-based tool for organizations that approach domestic violence prevention from a culturally specific framework and are seeking to demonstrate the importance of what they do.

Using the analogy of a receta, or recipe, the evaluation toolkit seeks to build and expand the capacity of organizations to conduct evaluations of their programs. The evaluation toolkit is divided into different sections according to the level of knowledge and expertise of the user. For example, there is a beginner’s section that introduces the basic ingredients or concepts of evaluation and provides worksheets to walk the user through the various components of evaluation, including creating logic models; thinking through how to organize, interpret and analyze data; and how to use the results. In addition, the Evaluation Toolkit has more in-depth guidance for users interested in using community evidence to document the culturally specific nature of their work. It includes a Community Centered Evidence Based Practice approach, which is an adapted Evidence Based Practice model for practitioners and evaluators who engage community members in their programming (Serrata et al., in press).

There is also a learning community for those interested in sharing resources and learning more about each other’s work. Our team continues to add new tools. We are in the process of developing measures that capture the added value of culturally specific Domestic Violence organizations.

Here are links to what we have included:

We hope that you will find the toolkit beneficial to your work, and we would love to hear your feedback.

Source: Serrata, J.V., Macias, R.L., Rosales, A., Hernandez-M, M., Rodriguez, R., & Perilla, J.L. (in press). Expanding Evidence-Based Practice Models for Domestic Violence Initiatives: A Community-Centered Approach. Psychology of Violence.


rebecca-casaRebecca Rodriguez, Ph.D. (email: rrodriguez@casadeesperanza.org) is a community psychologist and manager of research and evaluation at the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities. Rebecca’s research interests broadly focus on culturally specific and community-centered approaches to prevent family violence in Latino@ families. Her research has examined marital and dating violence by investigating family dynamics (e.g. gender roles, parenting), U.S. immigration policies, and by working directly with Latin@ youth witnesses and survivors of violence in conducting participatory action research on topics they find important to their communities.  Her evaluation work includes participatory and culturally responsive evaluation practices and developing the evaluation capacity of community based organizations.

martha-casaMartha Hernandez-Martinez, MPA (email: mhernandez@casadeesperanza.org) serves as the Research Associate for the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families & Communities. She is originally from Managua-Nicaragua, where she holds a License in Psychology from the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua. Her work experience in Nicaragua included providing services to victims of natural disasters and domestic violence, and research on men’s sexual health. In addition, she designed, delivered, and evaluated gender based education programs targeting health workers. Martha moved to the U.S. in 2002, and worked as a community organizer in issues of affordable housing, immigration, and education. Martha also holds a Masters in Public Affairs from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. Martha’s major interest and passion consist of issues related to the intersections of gender, social norms, intimate partner violence (IPV), healthy masculinities from a Global South perspective, and the impact of public policies on women’s lives (e.g., reproductive health, human rights, development policies).

josieserrata-10Josephine V. Serrata, Ph.D. (email: jserrata@casadeesperanza.org) is a clinical community psychologist and director of research and evaluation at the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families & Communities, a project of Casa de Esperanza. Her research and evaluation work are embedded in practices that are culturally affirming and community driven. Her research includes studying the intersections of domestic violence with issues of oppression, privilege and strength in Latin@ families and communities. Her evaluation experiences have included evaluating community based prevention and engagement efforts, including a leadership intervention for immigrant Latina survivors of domestic violence. Her clinical work focuses on trauma informed, culturally relevant approaches.

 

Compliance through a Prevention Lens

By LB Klein, MSW, MPA

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As I recently attended orientation for my doctoral program, I’ve been reflecting on the seismic shift in how campuses address sexual violence from when I attended undergraduate orientation. Over the past several years, the manner in which we talk about sexual and relationship violence and stalking on campus has fundamentally shifted. Everything related to interpersonal violence on campus has been coded as “Title IX.” This is due to the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter explicitly applying the Title IX educational amendment that prohibits sex-based discrimination to gender-based violence. So much has changed since I first attended university orientation back in 2004.

To inform a recent research study I conducted with my colleagues Jill Dunlap and Drew Rizzo, I conducted a series of interviews with campus-based advocacy and prevention professionals around the country. As I attend orientation five years after the Department of Education sent the Dear Colleague Letter, I have been reflecting a lot on one participant’s words:

We’re having a cultural moment right now. Expectations have fundamentally shifted in the past five years around campus sexual violence. It’s possible to use this energy as a lever for broader change. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to the way that things were in 2010.”

This momentum continues to build. It is incredibly exciting to be a part of this cultural moment that has the potential to inspire significant change on campuses. Back when I attended orientation as an undergraduate student, our orientation programming consisted of a reenactment of an incident of sexual violence. The only dedicated resources on campus were student-run, with little support from the institution beyond the kind-hearted volunteerism of a couple of faculty and staff members. As a student activist, I worked hard to bring attention to these issues, and to do my small part to achieve the kind of attention that campus sexual assault receives today. I did not think that I would see this level of attention to issues of sexual assault on campus in my lifetime, let alone in less than a decade.

While the new elevation of sexual violence to a “Title IX issue” has shifted our practices, there are also dangers with this approach. Another colleague I interviewed for our study pointed to the challenges of this recent shift:

Sexual violence is being treated like a new epidemic taking campuses by storm rather than the endemic societal issue it is. On campuses in particular, there is an increased challenge in separating prevention programming from policy programming. They are being conflated in educational programs, but the pedagogy should not be the same for both. ‘Because the policy says so’ does not change attitudes or culture.”

As my colleague pointed out, we cannot equate legal compliance with addressing the complex set of issues around campus sexual assault, which require a multifaceted response. A “checking the boxes” framework that centers on compliance can be at odds with the fundamental belief of a prevention approach: sexual and relationship violence and stalking is not inevitable. In order to work toward ending gender-based violence, we must truly believe that violence is preventable. As a college student, my peers and I wanted to eradicate rape culture on campus, to ensure survivors had confidential spaces facilitated by highly-trained professionals, and to have prevention programming—not just awareness-raising and scare tactics. We were not that different from many college students today, in that few of us would have considered legal systems the answer to the pervasive issue we saw affecting so many of our classmates and friends.

Title IX language centers violence as a civil rights issue. While this is incredibly helpful in ensuring a timely and appropriate response after an incident of violence occurs, few students are experiencing a sexual assault and considering it a civil rights violation. That can lead community members to only recognize as assault those forms of violence that satisfy their existing definitions for violence. These definitions tend to include less common acts, such as stranger assaults, kidnapping, murder by an intimate partner, use of a weapon, etc. More than a decade has passed since I was an undergraduate student activist, but we are still trying to help people define the continuum of violence and to place blame where it is deserved: with the perpetrator.

In addition, guidance on prevention efforts is actually not included in Title IX. While the Dear Colleague Letter mentions prevention, the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE) or Violence Against Women Act 304 (VAWA 304) is actually what provides guidance on prevention. The language contained in Campus SaVE/VAWA 304 provides a powerful point of synergy between compliance and prevention: when read closely, it mandates prevention best practice through the definitions it establishes. As I have transitioned from student to professional and back to student again, I have seen how much our systems for disseminating prevention programming have become tied to compliance with laws. While this prioritizes the issue beyond what I could have imagined at age nineteen, it also creates new challenges for prevention professionals.

While my thinking has evolved since I was an undergraduate student activist, I now seek to leverage our new opportunities while keeping a student activist’s perspective in mind. Luckily, Campus SaVE/VAWA 304 provides process but not outcome mandates. It is informed by a public health approach, not one that asserts the possibility of checking a prevention “box.” There is but one simple paragraph about prevention in Campus SaVE/VAWA 304, which states that campuses must provide:

“Primary prevention and awareness programs for all incoming students and new employees including safe and positive options for bystander intervention, information on risk reduction to recognize warning signs of abusive behavior, and ongoing prevention and awareness programs for students and faculty.”

If we take a deeper look, the committee that crafted this language provides in-depth definitions for some key terms that can often be misunderstood. As a student activist, I would have been thrilled to be able to point to legislation that provided guidance on prevention best practice. Campus SaVE’s definitions prescribe public health processes, including community engagement, sociocultural relevance, assessment, and attention to social-ecological approaches that include diverse stakeholders and more groups than they appear to include on the surface.

For example, when I was going through orientation thirteen years ago, our programming centered my reducing my risk as a woman for being sexually assaulted. I even received a “safety whistle” (sometimes called a rape whistle) in my orientation packet and was told to not walk alone at night, even though I had a required night lab. However, these new regulations shift that problematic definition of risk reduction(emphasis mine):

The term risk reduction refers to approaches that seek to mitigate risk factors that may increase the likelihood of perpetration, victimization, or bystander inaction. Risk reduction focuses on helping individuals and communities address the institutional structures or cultural conditions that facilitate SV, DV & stalking to increase safety.

Cultural and structural changes, as well as taking a bystander approach to prevention, are even a part of a definition of a term like “risk reduction”— a term that would have made me cringe in college. We are making progress.

Compliance through a prevention lens means leveraging new legislation that reflects the comprehensive approach needed to achieve our ultimate goal of ending gender-based violence. To do so, we must work on multiple levels and include everyone in our prevention efforts. The community and structural level shifts that my student activists peers and I demanded are still needed. Thirteen years ago, I remember feeling the opposite of welcome as someone who survived sexual violence before I arrived on campus. Five years ago, as a campus advocacy and prevention program director, I remember immense pushback on simply including a line about resources for sexual assault survivors in orientation materials. Now, as a doctoral student, I am grateful to arrive on a campus at which I can clearly find a cogent policy and locate well-trained staff working to prevent and respond to violence. I hope that the Class of 2050 has a lot to take for granted.


LB_KleinLB Klein, MSW, MPA has dedicated her professional and academic life to ending gender-based violence, supporting survivors, and advancing social justice. She is a Lead Trainer and Curriculum Development Specialist for Prevention Innovations Research Center. She frequently travels around the United States and Canada, and is based in the Raleigh-Durham area, where she is pursuing a doctorate in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work.

How Do We Know If It Works? Measuring Outcomes in Bystander-Focused Abuse Prevention on Campuses

PIRCResearch Summary

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The use of bystander education programs (including Prevention Innovations Research Center’s (PIRC) Bringing in the Bystander ® In-Person Prevention Program) to prevent sexual and relationship violence and stalking is increasingly common, and as more colleges and other institutions adopt these programs, better means of evaluating them are needed. Since the programs focus on preparedness, attitudes, and behavior changes, evaluations should test their effects in these areas. Research that helps develop reliable means for testing the impact of bystander education programs is important for demonstrating program efficacy—hence the article title, How do we know if it works? Banyard, Moynihan, Cares, and Warner—a team of two psychologists and two sociologists—have developed several potential instruments for measuring the attitudes and behaviors that bystander programs target. Measures like these make it possible to assess bystander education programs by allowing comparison between peoples’ attitudes and behaviors before and after participation in a program.

The bystander intervention framework addresses shortfalls in earlier prevention efforts by emphasizing the community behaviors and attitudes that create a culture of respect and collective responsibility for preventing violence. Informing people about sexual assault, empowering them to speak out against it, and giving them tools to help prevent violence has the potential to create safer campus cultures. New programs have developed faster than evaluation metrics, and the authors of this study created and tested several possible means of evaluating a program’s efficacy. (See Banyard, 2015; Banyard, 2008; and Banyard, Plante, and Moynihan, 2004 for more information on developing metrics). Three of the proposed bystander-focused measures gather responses on self-reported attitudes, and a fourth gathers responses on self-reported behavior.

Drawing on responses from 948 first-year students at two U.S. universities, the authors investigated the psychometric properties of four key measures of bystander action. Since asking someone, “are you now prepared to be a good bystander?” is unlikely to prove informative, several steps of evaluation are needed to determine whether a person has internalized the intended messages of bystander intervention training. The authors drew on related research that established the validity and reliability of several approaches to measuring participant attitudes and behaviors, and tested their reliability and validity with this population. Their aim was to see if the measurements were equally valid and reliable for testing the attitudes and behaviors that bystander education programs aim to encourage as they had been in other contexts.

The Readiness to Help scale is revised from a 36-item assessment of readiness for change (Banyard, Eckstein, and Moynihan, 2010), and re-named Readiness to Help. Designed to gauge participants’ awareness of a problem and their willingness to take responsibility for addressing it, the scale consists of 12 parallel items related to sexual abuse, relationship abuse, and stalking. It asks respondents to rate how likely they are to perform those actions on a 5-point scale, ranging from 1 (not at all likely) to 5 (extremely likely). This metric was broken down into subscales for Action, Responsibility, and Awareness.

Perceptions of Peer Helping drew on a series of 20 questions developed for this study that asked participants to indicate how likely their friends were to help in various ways in different situations, on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (not at all likely) to 5 (extremely likely).

Intent to Help Friends and Intent to Help Strangers uses a set of 38 actions related to helping friends and 41 actions related to helping strangers to measures attitudes or willingness to help in situations where there is risk for sexual assault or relationship abuse. It is based on a shorter, 51-question scale by Banyard (2008) that showed good reliability and construct validity.

Bystander behaviors directed at friends and strangers was assessed using a set of 49 actions related to helping friends and 49 actions related to helping strangers that could be taken in situations where there is an apparent risk for sexual assault or relationship abuse. This scale builds on an earlier, shorter version developed by Banyard (2008).

The results from this study indicate that “readiness to help…, intent to be an active bystander, self-reported bystander responses, and perceptions of peer norms in support of action all showed adequate reliability and validity” (101).

The researchers also noted that this particular study relied on notions of what helping looks like in a university context, and was designed with a student lifestyle in mind, where attending parties features prominently. As assessment measures mature, researchers will need new evaluation strategies that reflect different cultural contexts. The metrics developed in this study, and related ones, are available in full on PIRC’s website http://cola.unh.edu/prevention-innovations-research-center/evidence-based-initiatives#BEM. The study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Banyard, V.L. (2015). Toward the Next Generation of Bystander Prevention of Sexual and Relationship Violence: Action Coils to Engage Communities. New York, NY: Springer Publications.

Banyard, V. L., Moynihan, M. M., Cares, A. C., & Warner, R. (2014). How Do We Know If It Works? Measuring Outcomes in Bystander-Focused Abuse Prevention on Campuses. Psychology of Violence 4: 101-115.

Banyard, V. L. (2008). Measurement and Correlates of Prosocial Bystander Behavior: The Case of Interpersonal Violence. Violence and Victims, 23, 83– 97.

Banyard, V. L., Eckstein, R. P., & Moynihan, M. M. (2010). Involving Community in Sexual Violence Prevention: The Role of Stages of Change. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 25, 111–135.

Banyard, V. L., Plante, E. G., & Moynihan, M. M. (2004). Bystander Education: Bringing a Broader Community Perspective to Sexual Violence Prevention, Journal of Community Psychology, 32, 61-79.

Public Policy:  Prevention or Harm?

By Grace Mattern

PIRC Research to Practice Specialist

Author and Nonprofit Advisor

www.gracemattern.com

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In the late 1990’s the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) worked with the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (NHCADSV) to amend New Hampshire’s child abuse statute to provide what everyone hoped would be increased safety for abused children and women.  Wouldn’t tougher penalties for abusers who violated stay-away orders make battered women and their children safer?

At the time I was working with Susan Schechter, a pioneer of the battered women’s movement, on another initiative—a national project to address the intersection of intimate partner violence and child abuse.  I asked her what she thought about the proposed policy change in New Hampshire.

“We should be trying to enforce the laws we already have,” Susan said.  “We don’t need more laws, we need to change how communities keep women and children safe.”

The law was changed. It didn’t improve enforcement of orders and it led to disagreements between DCYF and NHCADSV about an advocate’s role in reporting violations of orders.  Putting a criminal penalty in a civil statute—designed to outline the state’s work with families to heal abuse and reunite children with their biological parents—didn’t work, and it didn’t make children and battered women any safer.

The development of sex offender registries is another public policy initiative that was meant to protect children, but has turned out to be harmful in too many instances.  Sex offender registries were established with the belief that parents and the public could keep children safe if they knew where all the sex offenders were.  The instinct was protective.

But in reality, the most likely offender of any child is a family member or friend: someone from the community you would expect you could trust. In a third of cases the offender is another child, according to the National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth.  In many states a juvenile convicted of a sex crime, no matter how unjust or misguided the conviction, is subject to a lifetime on a public sex offender registry.

In The New Yorker, Sarah Stillman recounts troubling stories of the children, some as young as 10 at the time of their offense, who are on public registries. The negative consequences they face include vigilante violence against them and their families, misguided and ineffective treatment, and crippling discrimination in education and employment.  Criminalizing trauma-related behavior by a child, and publicly identifying that child as a sex offender, doesn’t prevent child abuse. It perpetrates it through policy.

To be clear, I’m not making an argument against sex offender registries.  I’m pointing out that when we advocate for policy changes we believe will help protect victims, we need to think as creatively as we can about the ways policy changes might be harmful to vulnerable people.  If we can identify potential unintended negative consequences then we can advocate for policies that minimize unintended harm as much as possible.

After trying for too long to find justice for victims in the criminal justice system, advocates in the battered women’s movement learned that justice can never be fully realized by any system of government. No matter how well-crafted the policy, government retains the authority to implement it however it wants, including in racist and sexist ways.  We criminalized domestic violence and advocated for the police to put batterers in jail, and the men who ended up incarcerated were disproportionally black or poor or both.

As a movement, we hope to learn from our mistakes.  The emphasis on criminal justice responses to intimate partner violence and sexual assault shifted years ago, with more attention on other systems—medical, mental health, community-based, child welfare, public assistance—as places to advocate for the support of survivors and their families.

There is growing recognition across child sexual assault victim rights groups and groups of family members affected by the registry of juveniles, such as Women Against Registry, that reform is needed.  Stacie Rumenap of Stop Child Predators, talking about lobbying for states to adopt registries, told Stillman, “Never in our wildest dreams were we going state by state asking lawmakers to punish juveniles.”

We need to have wild dreams when we advocate for new policies so we make as few mistakes as possible.

 

For more information on state registry laws and juveniles, please visit the Center for Sex Offender Management.


matternGrace S. Mattern was Executive Director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence for 30 years. She has been actively involved with public policy and systems advocacy to promote effective community interventions in response to domestic and sexual violence and coordinated a statewide network of programs that assist victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. She served on the Governor’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence, Chairing the Research Committee. She has also served on the Attorney General’s Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect, the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee, the National Greenbook Policy Advisory Council, and on numerous Boards of Directors, including the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the NH Network of Child Advocacy Centers and the NH Coalition to End Homelessness. She is currently the Vice-President of the Board of Directors of the NH Center for Nonprofits and is a member of the Advisory Board of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

 

 

Embracing Digital Bystander Intervention

By Nora Draper, Ph.D

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This past week, a horrific story highlighted the complicated relationship between social media, sexual assault, and bystander intervention. An 18-year old Ohio woman has been indicted on multiple charges, including rape and distribution of sexual materials involving a minor, for broadcasting the rape of another young woman with the live-streaming app Periscope.

Mobile app Periscope allows people to stream real-time video to viewers around the world. This use of Periscope to broadcast an incident of sexual assault is a recent example of social media platforms being used to facilitate and publicize abuse. Stories about cyberbullying, revenge porn, and fraping (taking over someone’s social media profile without their knowledge or consent), show how digital and mobile tools have the potential to enable online harassment. Despite the qualifier “digital” or “cyber,” the consequences of digital harassment almost always cross the largely artificial boundaries between the online and offline worlds.

Certainly, digital platforms have the potential to facilitate anti-social and even illegal behaviors. The story above, however, calls attention to the important and often overlooked ways that social media tools can be—and often are—deployed to support positive practices. In an act of digital bystander intervention, a viewer who saw the Periscope feed reportedly contacted authorities to report the rape. As prevention campaigns turn their attention to the role bystanders can play by intervening to deter or stop sexual assault, there is an opportunity to rethink how digital and mobile technologies are already used as tools for intervention, and incorporate these strategies into intervention campaigns. Indeed, as Communication researcher Carrie Rentschler has recently written, online bystanders can themselves be culpable in the perpetration of digital violence.

Smartphones, which are in the pockets of 85% of young adults, are often seen as encouraging frivolous behavior. Such framing, however, ignores smartphones’ empowering potential as tools for media production and accessing information. Given the ubiquity of these devices, it is essential that bystander intervention campaigns begin to focus on how these tools can turn witnessing into digital and mobile action.

Digital bystander intervention need not be exclusively the kind of crisis intervention witnessed in the story above. Bystander intervention programs, such as the University of New Hampshire’s Bringing in the Bystander ® In-Person Prevention Program, focus on the need for intervention along the spectrum of abuse, from microaggressions to sexual violence. The digital environment is full of opportunities for intervention. From the comments sections under news articles to social media pages, there are myriad platforms for small forms of digital bystander intervention. The types of intervention often marginalized as slacktivism— actions such as voting down sexist content, flagging harassing posts for review, and posting supportive comments—all have the potential to support a growing culture of digital intervention.


Nora_Draper_HeadshotNora Draper, Ph.D, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of New Hampshire. Her research examines the complexities of authenticity, privacy, identity, and reputation in the digital era through frames of cultural theory, critical institutionalism, and public policy. Her work explores how identity, particularly gender, race, class, and sexuality, shape experiences of privacy, surveillance, and visibility in a digital environment. Her work has been published in the International Journal of Communication, Critical Studies in Media Communication, the Journal of Children and Media, and Surveillance & Society.

National Campus Prevention and Policy: Title IX+ in Action

By Jill Dunlap

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The news about sexual violence on campus can seem dire and often overwhelming to parents, current and potential students, and campus administrators. It seems that every day a new study is released about campus sexual violence, its prevalence, and the culture that perpetuates it.[1] While it might seem easier to hide under the covers and never read the news again, it is important to recognize the good that has come from the increased attention to campus sexual violence. In fact, April is the best time to look around and appreciate all of the new and innovative sexual violence prevention and awareness programming taking place on college campuses. A mere five years ago, campus sexual violence prevention was likely the responsibility of a part-time prevention educator or student groups on campus who put on well-intentioned and perhaps sporadic prevention programs for students. With the new requirements under VAWA, and the more prominent role of Title IX coordinators in addressing hostile environments related to sexual violence, prevention programming has moved to the top of the priority list on many colleges. The greatest hope I feel is when I see campuses going beyond meeting the requirements to provide incoming students with prevention programs and developing multi-pronged prevention programs that span a student’s entire career on campus. Many campuses have well-developed strategic plans for sexual violence prevention programming. Other campuses have moved beyond defining VAWA crimes for students, and are training students on how to respond to disclosures by their peers and get them connected to resources. Prevention programming is increasingly evidence-informed and is moving away from single, one-hour interventions that happen only during orientation.

We are beginning to see the results of these efforts. This week, University of Connecticut released the results of a campus survey on sexual violence that found, among other things, that 55% of respondents knew how to report an incident of sexual violence and knew the confidential resources available to them. Surveys on other campuses have also indicated that more students are aware of their Title IX rights. While these results may speak more to awareness rather than a decline in the prevalence of sexual violence, they are telling us that students are absorbing the messages delivered via prevention programming on campus.

The other good news is that parents and students now have another measure to inform their decisions about where to attend college. Potential students can still look to Clery Act numbers to assess safety, but they can also look to the comprehensive prevention programming campuses provide—including who provides the programming, how often, and the types of programs campuses are providing.

Finally, the good news for campuses is that they are not alone in efforts to prevent sexual violence. This spring alone, at least three separate federal grant solicitations through the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, the Centers for Disease Control and the Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health were available to help campuses develop and assess the effectiveness of sexual violence prevention programs.

The problem clearly has not been fixed, and sexual violence on campus remains a major concern for parents, students and administrators. But, there is hope that the issue is being taken seriously and that campuses are finding innovative ways to prevent sexual violence on campus. Do not let April pass you by without taking part in sexual violence prevention programming on your campus or in your community. Sexual violence impacts every one of us. This issue belongs to all of us and we all play a part in preventing and addressing sexual violence on our campuses and in our communities.

[1] Lindo, J. M., Siminski, P. M., & Swensen, I. D. (2015). College Party Culture and Sexual Assault (No. w21828). National Bureau of Economic Research.


JillDunlap_Headshot_800x800 (1)Jill Dunlap is the Director for Equity, Inclusion, and Violence Prevention at NASPA. She is not only a PIRC friend, but she also served on the Violence Against Women Act Campus SaVE federal negotiated rulemaking committee with the Department of Education in 2014. Her work with that committee assisted in creating guidelines for campuses to follow when complying with new federal regulations on sexual assault, dating and domestic violence and stalking prevention and response. Jill’s work experience also includes having written and managed three Department of Justice Grants with the Office on Violence Against Women, all of which focused on funding campus-based advocates to assist student survivors. In addition, Jill is proud of her substantial work with community survivors through her commitment to volunteer work for local rape crisis agencies and domestic violence shelters for the past 12 years.

Addressing “Revenge Porn” Using a Community Approach

By LB Klein, MSW

[Left Photo Source & Right Photo Source]

“Revenge porn” is a colloquialism for the non-consensual sharing of sexually explicit still or moving images with the intention of causing harm. It is a form of sexual violence commonly used as a tactic by a perpetrator of harassment, intimate partner violence, and stalking to harm the victim. The images may originally have been taken with or without consent, may originally have been consensually shared with a partner, or stolen via hacking of a personal computer or phone. The “revenge porn” is then posted publicly, often on websites, and sometimes with the victim’s contact information, social media sites, or address, so that the victim can be further harassed and humiliated.

There are two commonly proposed solutions for “revenge porn.” The first is the idea that people should just stop taking nude photos of themselves. This solution blames victims and shames people, usually women, for their sexuality and provides no solution for the problem of gender-based violence. The issue with “revenge porn” is the lack of consent in the distribution of the images, not in the existence of the images themselves. The violation is not the existence of bodies or people seeing them but in who decides who can share the images (victims have not participated in the decision or agreed to share images or personal information), the intention for sharing the images (i.e., retaliation or punishment) and the perpetrators’, usually men, effective tactic of leveraging patriarchy to shame their women partners as “revenge.”

The second proposed solution is turning to the criminal legal system. While less victim-blaming, this is often quite ineffective. “Revenge porn” is a psychologically and sexually abusive form of violence that relies on community shaming. While 27 states currently have laws against “revenge porn”  and seventeen more are drafting legislation, “revenge porn”— like many other forms of gender-based violence—is rarely addressed in a timely or fulfilling manner by the criminal legal system, and victims are often left to face increased stigma without recourse. There are people who will never feel safe turning to the police or the courts for help, even if those avenues are improved. Simply making “revenge porn” illegal is but one step toward true prevention and intervention.

Here are four areas outside of introducing new legislation or advocating for risk reduction that can be leveraged to address “revenge porn.”

  1. Increase the capacity of sexual and domestic violence service providers to raise awareness about “revenge porn”.

It is vital that advocates and counselors learn more about the nature and dynamics of “revenge porn” so that they can identify the behavior and possible remedies. As these providers are already working these issues, they can also raise awareness that “revenge porn” is a form of gender-based violence and that its victims deserve support.

  1. Increase public education and awareness without shaming victims.

Due to recent media attention, there is increased awareness that “revenge porn” is happening, but the sensationalism and emphasis on legal intervention does not inspire the public to take responsibility. Educational efforts should focus on what community members can do to aid in prevention by avoiding “revenge porn” websites, shaming websites that host nonconsensually-shared images, and providing support to friends who are targeted through “revenge porn.”

  1. Include discussion of “revenge porn” in bystander intervention programs.

Bystander intervention is a powerful prevention strategy that centers on seeing all members of the community as a part of the solution for ending violence. These programs should include examples of “revenge porn” alongside other forms of interpersonal violence. These programs can emphasize the need for perpetrator accountability and the power of prosocial bystanders to shift the culture that emboldens “revenge porn” perpetrators.

  1. Engage with leaders in the technology field to develop innovative solutions.

While “revenge porn” is simply a form of gender-based violence facilitated using new technology, social media and the idea are relevant points of consideration when uncovering solutions. Technological interventions might make it harder for abusers to disseminate “revenge porn” or might help survivors quickly get images taken down.

“Revenge porn” is a new manifestation of a pervasive endemic public health issue: gender-based violence. It relies on a patriarchal culture in which even well-meaning individuals abdicate responsibility. This leads to the perpetuation of the myth that criminal and civil legal systems work to provide justice and restoration to victims, or that further shaming and limiting the sexualities of women are effective prevention strategies. Because these are false promises, we must consider new solutions that are rooted in communities, address power and privilege, promote education, empower bystanders, and use innovative technological practices. Only through leveraging interdisciplinary expertise and listening to what survivors really want will we see a shift away from a culture that enables “revenge porn” and excuses those who host and post it.


LB_KleinLB Klein, MSW is a Consultant and Lead Trainer for Prevention Innovations Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. In that role, she builds the capacity of institutions of higher education and communities to implement the Bringing in the Bystander Program. She is based in Atlanta, GA and will begin pursuing a doctorate in the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this Fall.

Why Don’t Survivors Just Report Sexual Assault to the Police?

By LB Klein, MSW

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[Photo courtesy of morgueFile]

According to the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey, 68% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. There are many reasons why a survivor might choose not to report an assault, or to stop pursuing a case after reporting it. Every survivor’s healing process or sense of justice is different, and it’s always the survivor’s right to choose whether or not to report sexual violence to law enforcement. The following are just some of the reasons that survivors may choose not to report:

  • Survivors might feel embarrassed about what happened, or want to avoid publicly discussing sexual acts or repeating the story over and over again.
  • Survivors often blame themselves or believe others will blame them.
  • Survivors might believe that involving the police or criminal legal system could lead to time-consuming and invasive processes with little chance of tangible results. They might also worry that these lengthy processes could delay their recovery.
  • Survivors might worry that the criminal legal system will find the perpetrator not guilty, making the reporting seem like an unnecessary and demoralizing ordeal. This might lead survivors to feel even less safe having gone through these systems. Failed legal cases can make survivors feel even more at fault, and as if no one believes them.
  • Survivors might not want others to find out about what happened, or to become targets for gossip or retaliation. Survivors might fear both physical retaliation and social consequences that could inhibit moving forward with their lives.
  • Survivors might not want their families, significant others, or friends to find out for fear that they will worry, become overly protective, blame them, retaliate against the perpetrator, or insist that they leave certain environments like school or work.
  • Survivors may not recognize that what happened to them was sexual assault or rape. They likely know and sometimes care about the person(s) who committed these acts. They might want help or support, but would not want to pursue actions that label what happened as “rape.”
  • If the perpetrator is found guilty of committing a sexual assault and receives a significant punishment, the survivor may face retaliation from other members of the community for getting someone in trouble.
  • The survivor may have been threatened by the perpetrator or be frightened of the perpetrator.
  • Survivors may fear compromising or complicating relationships with mutual friends.
  • The survivor may fear that others won’t believe an assault occurred. A common reaction from friends or family members that the survivor might have experienced is disbelief—that situations like this could not possibly happen. Another common reaction is to blame and scrutinize the survivors’ behavior, making the survivor reluctant to report assaults in future.
  • The survivor may have already had a bad experience with legal systems or have a criminal record, or know someone else who has been victimized by the system.
  • The survivor might not have the resources to pay the legal fees that are sometimes associated with reporting.
  • Survivors from communities of color, immigrant and refugee communities, American Indian and low-income communities may have negative histories with law enforcement perpetrating state violence against them or their communities and may not view law enforcement and the criminal justice system as a source of healing, justice, or support.
  • The survivor might be focusing on coping with mental health symptoms, depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, PTSD, academic or work difficulties, and safety concerns, and not have the time, energy, or support to pursue the case. Participation in legal processes often exacerbates these problems rather than alleviates them.
  • The survivor may have been engaging in other embarrassing or illegal activities when the assault occurred, and fears the conduct or legal process will uncover these.
  • If survivors identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or queer, or they were engaging in sexual activity with a person of the same gender at the time of the assault, they may be concerned about being outed if they pursue a legal process.

For these reasons and many more, many survivors do not choose to report to law enforcement. No one should ever force or coerce a survivor into reporting an assault to the police, and it should be a survivor’s decision if and when to report. It is crucial to put survivors’ self-determination at the center in all sexual assault prevention and awareness programming to help survivors regain the power and control taken from them when they were sexually assaulted.  We must continue to validate the experiences of survivors, regardless of whether they ever report to a police officer or spend a day in a courtroom, and to consider ways to address sexual violence outside of criminal legal interventions.


LB_KleinLB Klein, MSW is a Consultant and Lead Trainer for Prevention Innovations Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. In that role, she builds the capacity of institutions of higher education and communities to implement the Bringing in the Bystander Program. She is based in Atlanta, GA.

 

Welcome to PIRCBlog!

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          We begin this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month with the launch of our newest communication platform, the Prevention Innovations Research Center blog. Welcome to PIRCBlog!
         Prevention Innovations Research Center (PIRC) is internationally recognized for its collaborative research and community engagement, with a focus on preventing and responding to sexual and relationship violence and stalking.
          We hope to bring you interesting updates from our work here at the University of New Hampshire including work by our PIRC colleagues and collaborating partners from around the globe. Together, we are engaged in cutting-edge scholarship, research, education and developments that are making news and making a difference in ending sexual and relationship violence and stalking. Our research informs policy and practice and we convene practitioners and researchers to develop strategies for evidence-based, innovative approaches to violence prevention. We are committed to mentoring the next generation of researchers, scholars and advocates. Therefore, PIRC researchers involve graduate and undergraduate students in their projects at all stages, from design to implementation to publication. Our Susan Schecter Domestic and Sexual Violence Social Justice Lab is an interdisciplinary research laboratory where PIRC offers paid and credit-earning research assistantships to UNH students.
          PIRCBlog will include contributions from the PIRC team as well as from guest bloggers. Contributors will discuss current practices in social change and violence prevention, take a deeper look at the evidence-based research that drives our mission and summarize their peer-reviewed publications. We will also examine the partnerships with practitioners and communities where research findings are put to use and discuss their implementation. PIRCBlog will recognize practitioners and researchers world-wide who are working toward the same goals by highlighting like-minded organizations, tracking the news related to the prevention of sexual and relationship violence and stalking, and reviewing books, movies and other media that highlight sexual and domestic violence.
          As the launch of our blog coincides with April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), we have planned a series of posts on this year’s theme:preventionWatch for discussions of the importance of prevention and PIRC’s efforts helping post-secondary institutions, federal and state efforts,and local communities develop and implement model policies, procedures and programs. We’ll also be addressing prevention efforts in the military and on college and university campuses, prevention and public policy, and prevention in the media.
          We invite you to read and to comment on the blog, follow us on WordPress,visit our website, and subscribe to our semi-annual newsletter, PIRCNews, for information about PIRC. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, please see our submission guidelines. You can also follow us on Twitter (@WePreventNow), on Instagram (@preventioninnovations) and on Facebook where you will find updates about our work, and announcements of new blog posts. Thank you for visiting PIRCBlog!
          –Sharyn Potter and Jane Stapleton

SharynPotter1Sharyn J. Potter, Ph.D., MPH, is a founder and Co-director of Prevention Innovations Research Center: Ending Sexual and Relationship Violence and Stalking at the University of New Hampshire and is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology.
stapletonJane Stapleton, M.A., is a founder and Co-director of Prevention Innovations Research Center: Ending Sexual and Relationship Violence and Stalking at the University of New Hampshire.