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.
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.
Ohio remains one of a few states in the nation to have a comprehensive, state-funded approach to addressing sexual violence on campus.
Since 2015, the Changing Campus Culture initiative has been funded through the state budget. Specifically, the budget charges the Chancellor with developing model best practices for preventing and responding to campus sexual violence. The Chancellor is also directed to convene state institutions of higher education and private nonprofit institutions of higher education in the training and implementation of best practices regarding campus sexual violence.
Ohio’s campuses are asked to implement the five recommendations, designed to work together and aimed at preventing and better responding to sexual violence.
- 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 set aside through the budget can be used for the following:
- Provide campus climate survey support services, including data analysis, report generating, and data-to-action recommendations, for Ohio campuses.
- Training and education programs to support the implementation of the Changing Campus Culture recommendations.
- Monthly webinars on hot topics in prevention and response of sexual violence.
- Grants to support the development of campus or regional efforts to implement any or all of the five recommendations within the Changing Campus Culture initiative.
- Online resource portal with templates, toolkits, guidance documents, and other resources.