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Zoe Larkey — January 31, 2024

Creating a Culture of Consent: Practices for Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education

Zoe Larkey

Sexual violence on college campuses remains a disturbingly prevalent issue, with campus sexual assaults accounting for 43% of on-campus crime happening at universities throughout the United States. Despite their high frequency, the majority of sexual assaults go unreported to law enforcement, with a mere 20% of female students choosing to report their experiences. Campus sexual violence can have ripple effects across the campus community, impacting not only the survivor, but also the people in their lives that they trust. To mitigate the effects of campus sexual violence, colleges must provide resources and comprehensive sexual assault education programs to better support student survivors and the rest of the campus community. 

Title IX Policy and Resources for Survivors 

To understand the current climate surrounding sexual assault on college campuses, it is important to talk about Title IX. Passed in 1972, Title IX is ​​a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination within universities that receive federal funding. For survivors, this means that college campuses have a legal obligation to protect their students from and provide support after incidents of sexual violence. Unfortunately, a college’s Title IX resources might not always feel accessible or approachable to students, especially in the aftermath of an assault. Know Your IX is a survivor-led organization that aims to clarify Title IX policy for college students. Students can review frequently asked questions before contacting their university’s Title IX department so that they are more aware of what to expect. 

Colleges can assist survivors by making information about Title IX more readily accessible and displayed in places that are commonly viewed, like residence and dining halls. Emphasizing the use of trauma-informed principles, availability of mental health support, and clearly outlining disciplinary options for survivors can help to minimize anxiety and reluctance to use Title IX resources. 

Comprehensive Education 

Under Title IX, federally funded universities are required to mandate training programs in an attempt to minimize instances of sexual violence. While this is required, not all colleges put forward the same effort into what these trainings look like and how often they occur. Colleges that mandate ongoing training over a one-time singular training, have seen shifts in attitudes and behaviors surrounding sexual violence as opposed to those that do not. 

Over time, education can cause a shift in community norms and create more respectful cultures on campus. Additionally, training can be unique and specialized to fit the needs and viewpoints of groups around campus. Conversations surrounding campus sexual violence help to normalize the experience of survivors while providing education surrounding boundaries and consent which students may not have previously had access to. 

Seeking Support

The culture of sexual violence on college campuses, although daunting, is not fixed. Policy change and education help destigmatize difficult conversations and show universities that students need help in solving this issue. 

If you or someone that you know has experienced sexual violence on your college campus, remember that you are not alone and that there are resources to support you: 

  • You can google search “your university’s name” + Title IX office to get in contact with a member of the Title IX office 
  • You might also want to look into who are confidential resources on your campus vs. mandatory reporters as you decide whether or not you want to seek confidential support or report your experience more formally through Title IX
  • Review this Handbook for Campus Crime Reporting or  ACHA’S Toolkit 
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: (1-800-656-4673)

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