Momentum in Sex Assault Prevention, Says Victims’ Advocate

2/06/2014
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Amanda Childress, Sexual Assault Awareness Program coordinator at the College, sees important movement both at Dartmouth and nationally in confronting the shocking frequency of sexual violence on college campuses.

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(Photo by Eli Burakian ’00 )

“We’re seeing incredible momentum and engagement by college administrators, and importantly, by students,” Childress says.

She says president Obama’s decision last month to establish a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault was a direct result of a new report from the White House Council on Women and Girls that found nearly 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 71 men have experienced rape in their lifetimes and that college students are at highest risk of sexual assault. Data also shows that a majority of campus sexual assaults are committed by repeat offenders, she says.

New Center Announced

Dartmouth has announced creation of a new center for the prevention of sexual assault and violence at Dartmouth. “All who share our commitment to making this campus safe will have ways to be involved,” says Dean Charlotte Johnson in announcing the Center for Community Action and Prevention. Read more.

“I am really impressed that the president has taken this stand,” she says. “It raises the stakes around issues of accountability for holding perpetrators responsible, and for providing resources for victims and survivors of assault on college campuses.”

Dartmouth Bystander Initiative

At Dartmouth, one of the programs gaining momentum is the Dartmouth Bystander Initiative (DBI), she says. Clinical psychologist Jennifer Messina ’93 consulted with Dartmouth to design a campus-wide community mobilization, which aims to foster a culture of support in which people feel they can take positive steps to help their peers and to defuse threatening situations. DBI will become the flagship program of the new CCAP.

Since the first training sessions piloted in the fall of 2012, some 250 students have participated in DBI’s full Leadership Training, and a pool of more than 700 students has been compiled by nominations from students, faculty and staff, to participate in upcoming Leadership Trainings.

The Greek Leadership Council (GLC) and the Student Assembly have joined the effort, voting to support campus-wide “Overview Talks” to introduce the basic concepts of DBI to all Dartmouth students in the fall. In addition, Athletic Director Harry Sheehy has supported the initiative with the Dartmouth Peak Performance program and requested that all teams partake in a DBI Overview Talk. So far, student athletes from 15 varsity teams and a number of Greek organizations have heard an Overview Talk.

“Our goal is to continue to mobilize Dartmouth students, as well as faculty and staff, and to empower the community with effective tools to respond to the threat of sexual violence,” Childress says.

First Responder Training for Faculty

Other ongoing efforts at Dartmouth include First Responder Trainings and workshops for staff to support survivors of sexual assault, started more than two years ago with Safety and Security officers, deans-on-call, and health services staff. This training is now available to faculty members as well. Childress says a group of professors asked to be included, noting that as faculty and advisers, they want to be able to help support students who may confide in them.

Student-Led Initiatives

Work on these issues is also being conducted campus-wide by students, faculty, staff and alumni. The Committee on Student Safety and Accountability (COSSA), the faculty Committee on Student Life (COSL) and the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault (SPCSA), have submitted recommendations for the College, the GLC instituted a Sexual Misconduct Policy that prohibits students found responsible for sexual misconduct from rushing a Greek organization, and a number of Dartmouth alumni have remained active in finding solutions to combat the problem of sexual assault on campus.

“We’ve been looking at a three-pronged approach when addressing the issue of sexual violence on campus,” Childress says. “First, preventing sexual violence from happening in the first place; second, creating a community of support for survivors; and third, holding perpetrators accountable.”

Other Initiatives at Dartmouth

  • Over February 10-11, President Phil Hanlon ’77 will participate in a national conference hosted by the University of Virginia about “Sexual Misconduct Among College Students.” He is scheduled to discuss the steps Dartmouth is taking to address these issues on a panel along with the presidents of Amherst College, Notre Dame, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Oregon, and UVA.
  • This summer, July 13-17, Dartmouth will host a national working conference of colleges and universities addressing sexual assault on campus and supporting survivors of assault with nationally known clinical psychologist David Lisak, whose research focuses on the motives and behaviors of rapists. Lisak has worked as a consultant on sexual assault prevention, response, and investigations with the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Army, Department of Defense, and many universities.
  • The College has established the Center for Community Action and Prevention (CCAP) as a hub for sexual assault and violence prevention initiatives and to serve as a focal point for community mobilization around preventing sexual violence and increasing the safety and well-being of all members of the community. The Dartmouth Bystander Initiative (DBI) will be the flagship program of the new center, which is slated to open by July 1.
  • Dartmouth Bystander Initiative (DBI) has completed Overview Talks and Leadership Trainings for approximately 900 students, providing them with the skills to recognize high risk situations and find way to intervene. Students who have participated in DBI, as well as faculty, staff, and other campus leaders, have nominated some 700 students to be part of the next wave of workshops. In addition, the Greek Leadership Council and the Student Assembly are supporting campus-wide and Greek system-wide DBI Overview Talks. Also, student athletes from 15 Dartmouth teams have participated in training through the Peak Performance program.
  • First Responder Training began on campus in 2012 with first responders, such as Safety and Security officers, counselors, deans on call, EMS and the student wellness staff. The workshop has now been expanded to include faculty members. The move came after a group of professors asked for advice on how to get involved and best support students, who often approach a trusted faculty member seeking counsel after an assault.
  • Representatives of the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights were on campus conducting a Title IX compliance review from January 27-30, and will return in February. Interviewers invited members of the Dartmouth community, including students, faculty, administrators, alumni, and other stakeholders to meet with them to discuss perspectives on the College’s response to possible sexual harassment and violence. Anyone interested in participating in the next round of interviews can contact OCR by voicemail at (617) 289-0018, or by email at OCRBostonTitleIX@ed.gov.
  • In 2012, the College’s Office of Safety and Security designated an officer as the lead sexual assault investigator, providing specialized training in sexual assault investigations as well as victim support. In addition, the College has created the position of Title IX and Clery Act compliance officer, and is currently advertising to fill the job.
  • A number of student, faculty, and alumni groups are addressing the issue of sexual assault on campus. The Committee on Student Safety and Accountability (COSSA), the faculty Committee on Student Life (COSL), and the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault (SPCSA) have submitted recommendations for the College; the Greek Leadership Council (GLC) instituted a Sexual Misconduct Policy that prohibits students found responsible for sexual misconduct from rushing a Greek organization; and a number of Dartmouth alumni have remained active in finding solutions to combat the problem of sexual assault on campus.
Revised on May 15, 2014.