The epidemic of sexual violence on college campuses has recently gained national attention. Ohio State has already made great strides in responding to this issue*, with groundbreaking work in preventing sexual violence on campus and supporting survivors. Undergraduate Student Government, in partnership with leaders of student organizations across campus, has studied the critically-acclaimed response of other institutions to this problem, as well as solutions from our campus. We propose several ideas to even better educate students about sexual violence and to provide survivors and allies with the support needed to remediate this pressing issue.
Primary Prevention: Education
Through several proactive measures, we wish to arm students with the information they need to confidently protect their peers from sexual violence. We also aim to encourage reporting: in spite of the fact that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 16** men are sexually assaulted while college students, only 21 assaults were reported from campus last year***. This includes the following initiatives:
- Promoting a Culture in Which “It’s On Us”:Beginning 10/18/2014, USG launched an extension of the nationally-recognized “It’s On Us” campaign on our campus and social media platforms. With this campaign, we aim to make students aware of the role that they can and must play as bystanders to prevent sexual violence. In collaboration with fellow Big-Ten student leaders, and the respected leaders of eminent student organizations at Ohio State, we will empower our peers to consider, talk about, and act upon creating a culture of consent at OSU.
- The Addition of Consent and Sexual Violence Training into OSU Survey Courses: We’d like for Survey Courses at OSU to, at a minimum, include memorable training and impactful discussion about consent, sexual violence, and how we define these concepts in the Ohio State Student Code of Conduct. Survey curriculum should be designed in collaboration with OSU’s Sexual Violence Education and Support (SVES) team, who has already created a very successful bystander-intervention program, “Buckeyes Got Your Back.”
- Comprehensive Training for all Residence Hall Staff: Every employee of Ohio State Residence Life, particularly student employees working as Resident Advisors, should be educated about their role as bystanders in preventing sexual violence, and armed with resources needed to connect survivors with support. We applaud existing training for Residence Life Office Assistants, and would like for this program to be replicated for all members of hall staff.
Secondary Prevention: Support
Ohio State’s SVES team has already implemented groundbreaking prevention and support models to address sexual violence, and USG supports an expansion of their current work to better service the campus community. The success of aforementioned and existing initiatives to better educate peers about sexual violence and available resources will likely result in an increase in reports and pursuit of support from OSU’s SVES team. As we refer students to campus resources, we must communicate available resources with clarity, and build the capacity to meet increased demand.
- A comprehensive Center for Sexual Violence Education and Support (SVES): Because it would streamline campus solutions for sexual violence prevention and support, we believe that establishing a Center is the best solution for a campus with our needs. The Center could provide the opportunity to house individuals that can meet the supply demanded as a result of increased awareness.
- As is the mission of the existing SVES team, the Center could provide a pleasant, warm, welcoming environment for survivors and allies to find resources to support peers and find resources for themselves. The Center would be a safe place for survivors and allies to talk about experiences with sexual violence.
- A Center will enable a seamless referral process: difficulty in finding resources, currently housed in several locations, won’t serve as another barrier survivors face in finding support.
- A Center will facilitate long-term follow up: with survivors at an increased risk of repeat victimization, long-term advocacy and support will be essential for providing the secondary level of prevention that survivors need. Long-term relationships will allow survivors to seek out resources at every stage of healing… which can be unique to each person.
- A Center is progressive: inclusive of all students, independent of gender or sexuality. While some institutions house a “Women’s Center” to offer similar services (e.g. The University of Cincinnati, The University of Miami, Northwestern, Duke), we recognize that women aren’t the only people victimized by all sexual assault and harassment.
- A Center will continue and build-upon SVES’s established, evidence-based practices, to organize and execute prevention education. We know that sexual violence and bystander education is important to the campus community. Designing and implementing this education from one location will better support students seeking services and provide the opportunity for students to support their peers and get involved with sexual violence prevention efforts on campus.
- A Center will afford all students full participation to the extraordinary student experience at Ohio State: adopting a long-term advocacy approach ultimately will ensure students’ success and retention rate at graduation.
- A Center will enhance our reputation as a research institution: a centralized location and team will allow for a greater opportunity to perform research and demonstrate—across campus and across the nation—what The Ohio State University is doing to uniquely address sexual assault. We’ll uncover new solutions within our Discovery Theme of Health & Safety with a groundbreaking, comprehensive approach. Through our work from the Center, we’ll have the opportunity to share discoveries and advance the field of sexual violence prevention and support.
To get involved with the Its On Us campaign at Ohio State, please contact Emmy Wydman (.1).