Addressing Sexual Violence on the Higher Education Campus


Good evening, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) fans.  Hope you are having a great Independence Day weekend.  Wherever you are, make sure you stay safe.  We’re very close to college football – and we’ll keep you up-to-date on whatever is happening in the ACC here at All Sports Discussion.

We have written quite a bit about the problem of sexual violence on campus.  We wrote about the lack of institutional control at Baylor University, the need for improved reporting by the mass media on sexual violence, and the unconscionably low jail sentence for Stanford swimmer, Brock Turner. I also appeared on another podcast to talk about Baylor and how campuses can combat sexual violence.

In her Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law, Laura Dunn provides us with a brief summary on federal laws that require institutions to report on acts of sexual violence.  For example, the Jeannne Clery Disclosure Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act (the Clery Act) requires colleges and universities to report acts of sexual violence that meet the standard of a criminal offense.  Title IX of the Higher Education Amendments of 1972 addresses sexual violence as a civil rights violation – and over the years, courts have interpreted the statute to require schools to prohibit sex discrimination in the form of sexual harassment. While not a statute, a Dear Colleague Letter from the Department of Education further outlined responsibilities in that colleges and universities must address sexual violence through grievance procedures in a “prompt and equitable manner.” (Russlynn Ali April 2011 http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201104.html in Dunn 2014, Pages 569)  Section 304 of the 2013 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization further requires campuses to address sexual violence.  Expanded public reporting requirements include crime statistics on dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking (in addion to sexal assult). VAWA also requires colleges and universities to provide policies to promote campus education and awareness programs in two-fold.  First, an initial education program for all incoming students and new employees.  Second, an ongoing educational prevention and awareness campaign.  VAWA also requires colleges and universities to provide victims rights information. Dunn 2014, Pages 567-571)

Unfortunately, this problem sexual violence on campus is spiraling out of control.  Recently, the United States Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, the internal auditing arm of the Pentagon, found that a former Air Force Force Academy general was outright hampering a probe into misconduct by the Air Force football team.

The report, initiated after a 2014 Gazette investigation, reviews one of the darkest chapters in academy sports history.

At parties dating to 2010 cadets, including a core group of football players, smoked synthetic marijuana, drank themselves sick and may have used date-rape drugs to incapacitate women for sexual assault, documents obtained by The Gazette showed.

The culture was so wild that academy leaders canceled a planned 2012 sting operation out of concern that undercover agents and confidential informants at a party wouldn’t be enough to protect women from rape.

While we reported several times on the problem of sexual violence on campus, we have not discussed preventative or proactive measures that campuses can take in response to this epidemic (because this happened at the U.S. Air Force Academy) – and that is what we will do today.

In her law review article we referenced above earlier in this post, Dunn provides some recommendations on addressing sexual violence in a higher education environment.  Specifically, Dunn says that campuses should have:

  • a progressive reporting policy, which will develop a single reporting mechanism for colleges and universities to receive a complaint of sexual violence. Policies on reporting must address all instances of sexual violence, whether perpetrated by students, staff, faculty, or third parties;

  • educational efforts to address the behaviors, such as lack of empathy, hostility and sexist beliefs towards women, which can deter perpetrators from the act of sexual violence (many of these behaviors, as we’ve seen recently, came from male-dominated spheres like Baylor football team);

  • programs that encourage bystander intervention (the ACC is a huge partner in the It’s On Us Campaign to put a stop to sexual violence on campus).  This might require education on the realities of alcohol-facilitated sexual violence; and

  • improved risk reduction efforts.  We talk about ACC athletics a lot here at All Sports Discussion, for sure.  Fair or not, athletes are larger than life on campus and their conduct is going to be scrutinized more than other students – targeted training towards this group of students is important.

Making sure both parties, the victim and the accused, both receive due process (e.g. fair treatment by the courts) from the school and the court system is a blog post for another day – and I will publish that soon.

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