How can campus sexual violence prevention efforts be inclusive and relevant for all students?

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

by Ali Mailen Perrotto of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Happy Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)! April is here and it’s time to take action to prevent sexual violence on college campuses. Throughout the campaign planning process, the NSVRC got lots of questions from both students and staff at universities. One of our favorite questions was how to make sexual violence prevention efforts relevant and accessible for the greatest number of students.

We love this question because it tells us that campus activists are thinking in a big picture way, and moving beyond a more limited idea of what prevention means. That doesn’t mean it’s an easy answer though. There have been many years of campus-based “prevention” programming that sort of misses the mark for what is truly going to end a culture of sexual violence.

Savvy prevention campaign organizers know that a good campaign includes four main elements: awareness raising, risk reduction, response, and prevention. Just focusing on one will not get the job done! Furthermore, only focusing on one type of student (i.e. students who live in on-campus housing) or students of a specific identity (i.e. female students) really limits the prevention momentum.

So it begs the question, how can I make sure my campaign is relevant to traditionally overlooked populations? This can include populations based on a specific identity such as students of color, LGBTQ students, or male survivors. It can also mean looking at populations beyond the “typical” college student, like commuters, grad students, and adult learners.

According to the 9 Effective Keys to Prevention (Nation et al., 2003), a good prevention campaign needs to be socio-culturally relevant. This means that the prevention campaign and programs are created by and for the specific community they are engaging. It incorporates cultural norms and takes institutional history and identity into account.

As you begin your planning process, you should be looking around the table. Think about who your campus partners are and about who isn’t in the room yet. Make efforts to find common ground and think about ways that different members of your campus community can join in on the planning.

The Campus Sexual Violence Overview from this year’s resource kit provides a simple checklist of questions to ask to make sure that your prevention programming is relevant and inclusive. Consider:

˜1. How can a range of prevention strategies be utilized (i.e. bystander intervention, healthy sexuality, media literacy, engaging men, and anti-oppression work)?

2. Are messages relevant to specific campus subcultures and diverse student populations (e.g., students of color, international students, LGBTQ students, commuters, older students)? How are you engaging transfer, nonresidential, graduate and nontraditional students?

3. How were student voices, experiences, and perspectives involved? Does this approach include survivors in a trauma-informed way?

4. How can opportunities for sharing information be expanded to reach students in multiple settings?

For more information, consider checking out the Campaign Planning section of the SAAM site. You can also see the resources on How to Create a Campaign and the Event Planning Guide. If you’re invested in really understanding your campus community’s readiness for large-scale prevention efforts, take a look at Assessing campus readiness for prevention: Supporting campuses in creating safe and respectful communities by PCAR. You may also want to check out the 2014 Student summit on sexual assault: Report and recommendations from CALCASA.

What are you doing to implement effective prevention programming on college campuses?