A single act of sexual violence is one too many. Ohio seeks to strengthen its ability to better respond to, and ultimately prevent, sexual assault on the state’s college campuses. Numerous studies provide evidence that many survivors of sexual violence do not have faith in institutional processes, nor do they have a survivor-centered support system available to them. Despite the work colleges and universities have done to prevent their occurrence, over 100 sexual assaults were reported on Ohio’s public campuses in 2013. Because of the tendency to underreport this type of crime, the actual number of assaults is likely higher.
A number of national studies have revealed inconsistencies in how different colleges and universities investigate and respond to campus sexual violence on campus. An overview of Ohio institutions by the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) shows wide variances in campus policies and support systems.
Through the 2015 State budget, the Ohio Department of Higher Education was charged with developing model best practices for preventing and responding to campus sexual assault. A total of $2 million was allocated to support this work. To gain a better understanding of the diverse needs of Ohio’s colleges and universities, input was sought and received from campus presidents, advocacy groups, and campus and community experts statewide. National trends and best practices were also thoroughly researched. As a result of this collaborative approach, the Ohio Department of Higher Education recently released the “Changing Campus Culture: Preventing & Responding to Campus Sexual Violence,” report and recommendations, which build upon the existing work already underway on many Ohio college and university campuses.
University of Rio Grande President Dr. Michelle Johnston features Kerry Soller from the Ohio Department of Higher Education on an episode of the Voice of Rio Grande television show. In its second year of implementation, Changing Campus Culture is a comprehensive effort involving all public and private colleges and universities in Ohio with regard to preventing and responding to sexual violence.
The “Changing Campus Culture” report places a significant emphasis on Ohio’s many different institutional types, sizes, and available resources to address sexual violence. With this diversity in mind, ODHE sought perspectives from campus leaders from a wide variety of institutions including: President Drake from Ohio State University; President Krendl from Otterbein University; and President Johnston from Rio Grande University and Rio Grande Community College. Furthermore, Chancellor Carey formed an Advisory Group to provide guidance on implementing recommendations from the “Changing Campus Culture” report. The Advisory Group includes The Ohio State University, Otterbein University, University of Rio Grande/Rio Grande Community College, Terra State University, and Xavier University. The recommendations in the report are purposely broad, so that every Ohio institution has the ability to adopt the most appropriate best practices.
Ohio’s campuses are asked to embrace five cornerstone practices, designed to work together and aimed at preventing and responding to sexual violence. The goal is that 100 percent of Ohio campuses will adopt 100 percent of the recommendations by the beginning of the 2016/2017 academic year.
- Use data to guide action. Specifically, campuses are asked to administer an annual campus climate survey to inform prevention and response strategies, and to track trends over time.
- Empower staff, faculty, campus law enforcement and students to prevent and respond to sexual violence through evidence-based training. Using feedback from the campus climate survey and/or other data sources to help select the most appropriate program, campuses should implement a comprehensive training program for their institution. Programs focused on bystander intervention are particularly encouraged.
- Communicate a culture of shared respect and responsibility. Campuses should utilize a widespread awareness and communication campaign in conjunction with trainings and other initiatives to help encourage a safer culture.
- Develop a comprehensive response policy. Campuses are encouraged to engage a variety of stakeholders in developing and adopting a comprehensive policy to address sexual violence on campus. This comprehensive policy will be both survivor-centered and respect the rights of the accused.
- Adopt a survivor-centered response. By developing a response centered on survivors’ needs, such as providing confidential advisors, campuses can strengthen student trust in campus systems and processes.
Implementation and Funding Strategies:
The funding ($2 million) set aside in the budget can be used for the following:
- Disseminate a common campus climate survey for campuses to administer while recognizing that each campus has individual needs
- Data analysis support of the campus climate surveys
- Bulk training programs
- Online resource portal with how-to guides, templates, examples, CCC recommendations and Guidebook
- Campus Sexual Violence Prevention Summit with training on concepts related to CCC
- Individual grants – campus can apply for an individual grant to implement any or all of the five recommendations within the CCC