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How can I enhance the capacity of college students to respond to sexual assault?

Monday, June 02, 2014

A requestor recently contacted the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) asking for resources and ideas to develop a training for student-professionals working in campus residence halls. The goal was to review basics but also challenge students to move to the “next level” in providing an empathetic response to sexual assault disclosures.

Recent recommendations released by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault seem to have everybody buzzing about prevention and response on college campuses. The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) applauded the Task Force’s focus on partnerships, prevention, advocacy and confidentiality, training, and climate surveys in a May policy statement.

Taking a step back though, we know government officials have been talking about college sexual assault for a long time. Remember The Federal Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights from 1992? Or the California Campus Blueprint to Address Sexual Assault from 2004? Or Oregon’s Recommended Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexual Assault Response and Prevention on Campus from 2006?

Many organizations and colleges have resources and plans in place to take on this issue. Some of our personal favorites highlight the voices and experiences of students, keeping the real focus of these strategies – a healthy, safe campus for all – front and center. The PACT5 project recorded documentaries with students and provides a training guide to help guide constructive conversations. The Clery Center provides a Safe Campus, Strong Voices Toolkit to help with planning activities and outreach. SAFER also released an innovative report last year, Moving Beyond Blue Lights and Buddy Systems: A National Study of Student Anti-Rape Activists, which demonstrates that student organizers are ahead of the game in understanding primary prevention and culture change on campus.

That’s not to say that college activists and university officials have it all figured out. There’s still a long way to go, and there is always more to learn from other fields and disciplines. We’re intrigued by the really “sticky” ideas that help everyday folks hone their skills in responding to disclosures. Scenarios USA recently teamed up with Cleveland Rape Crisis Center to develop a film and resources for use in classrooms that really fits this bill. The film, Speechless, comes complete with a discussion guide and resources that are available online. They encourage using the BLAB IT approach when someone tells you about a sexual assault:

We’d love to hear about other sticky strategies that you have used to help move members of your community to the next level in providing a trauma informed response. What approaches do you use?