Progress Report on Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Initiatives
UPDATE: Summer 2015
This is the fourth in a series of comprehensive updates we have provided to the AU community since June 2014, describing AU’s efforts to prevent interpersonal and sexual violence and to support survivors. Campus partners have been essential to this work with substantive contributions from the students, faculty and staff members of the Sexual Assault Working Group (SAWG); Student Government; and the Wellness Center and its peer health educators. Our community owes them thanks for their dedication to this cause.
In April, 2015, the university responded to a Title IX inquiry from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. We provided information about our case management and our programs to prevent sexual assault and support survivors. The Department’s inquiry is on-going.
Following are an annual report of Title IX complaints for 2014-2015 and an account of recent enhancements and additions to our sexual violence prevention and survivor support activities:
2014-2015 Annual Report: Title IX Complaints with a Student as the Alleged Perpetrator
As required by Title IX and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), AU collects data on seven forms of sexual violence (defined in the Student Conduct Code). The following data are numbers of complaints in which students were the alleged perpetrators. The complaints were filed with AU’s non-confidential sources, over the last three years. Some complaints included more than one report type. The reporting period for each year is mid-May to mid-May.
AU’s complaint process empowers complainants to guide the institutional response to an incident of sexual violence. When the Dean of Students Office receives a complaint, the staff requests a meeting with the student to provide support and review options – including pursuit of a criminal and/or Student Conduct case. The meeting includes an assessment of the student’s safety and well-being. Measures chosen by the complainant (called “interim measures”) are put into place to ensure the well-being of the involved parties.
Following the initial appointment with the complainant, the staff begins an investigation into the incident. Relevant parties are contacted, and relevant evidence is collected. At the conclusion of the investigation, the complainant and investigator discuss the outcome and whether the complainant wishes to pursue Student Conduct charges. If a complainant wishes to move forward with conduct charges, but does not wish to be the complainant in the process, the investigator will serve in that role. If the complainant does not wish to pursue conduct charges, the complaint process stops, unless the university has a compelling interest in pursuing charges against the alleged perpetrator.
Sexual Assault Prevention – Awareness and Education
Consent-based Education @ Eagle Summit What Would You Do? is the new 2015 Eagle Summit session focused on consent-based education for incoming AU students. Over 1,300 first year and transfer students participated in the program and gave the session high ratings: 86% rated it “Excellent.” New students also shared what they would do to Step Up to prevent sexual assault. Here are some examples…
Be a good friend, and step up for those who don’t have a voice/too afraid to speak;
I will step up for people who are too intoxicated or may be experiencing emotional distress;
I will lead by example and use my skills to prevent sexual assault…
What Would You Do? will be repeated at First Year Fundamentals and Transfer Transitions during Welcome Week for students who did not attend Eagle Summit.
Empower AU @ 2015 Welcome Week
During 2015 Welcome Week, Empower AU will roll out, with financial support from the Student Government and a tremendous commitment from the Wellness Center’s peer health educators. Empower AU is a peer-led sexual assault prevention workshop focusing on consent, communication, and bystander intervention. The curriculum builds on the Eagle Summit session "What Would You Do?" and complements the Step Up program. Learning objectives for the workshop include how to: identify and communicate boundaries, ask for and communicate consent, recognize non-consensual behavior, and be more than a bystander. All new undergraduate students are required to attend the training; the Office for Advocacy Services for Interpersonal and Sexual Violence (OASIS) expects to train over 2,000 students.
Parent/Family Member Conversation Checklist
The 2015 Eagle Summit incorporated a printed list of questions for families to discuss prior to their student’s arrival on campus in the fall. The checklist was introduced to family members during an orientation session on critical issues and includes questions about interpersonal violence and sexual assault:
What is affirmative consent? How will you express your consent and obtain consent from your partner before engaging in any intimate contact?
How will you keep yourself and your partner safe, if either or both of you are intoxicated?
Tell me about AU’s bystander intervention program? What are the Three Ds [Direct, Delegate, Distract], and which one are you most likely to use?
Where can you go for help if you need it?
New Online Education Program for First Year Students
In response to student feedback and with substantial research and input from the Sexual Assault Working Group, the Office of the Dean of Students has replacedHaven – Understanding Sexual Assault with a new program, Think About It: Turning Points. The new program “provides students with a comprehensive foundation in four areas: sex in college, partying smart, sexual violence, and healthy relationships.” [ref: https://campusclarity.com]
New Information Brochures on Sexual Assault & Interpersonal Violence
New information brochures on the topics of Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence will be available in Campus Life offices and are available on the OASIS website under "Resource Links."
Syllabus Template Addition
The Sexual Assault Working Group (SAWG) developed Title IX language to raise awareness of prohibited forms of discriminatory harassment under Title IX and support services for students. The Center for Teaching, Research and Learning (CTRL) has incorporated the approved language into its course syllabus template under “Support for AU Students” at www.american.edu/ctrl/syllabus. The template may be used at the discretion of the faculty member.
Continuing to STEP UP
Step Up training reinforces learning about bystander intervention. Last year, 1,800 students were trained in this peer-led program. The Wellness Center will continue promoting the Step Up Program this fall by providing Step Up training for new student athletes, Summer Transition & Enrichment Program (STEP) students, new resident assistants and resident directors, and targeted student organizations. The film, “Step Up – Be More than a Bystander,” that is used at in-person trainings is accessible to the University community through the Step Up website.
Last year, PEERS (Peer Educators for the Elimination of Relationship and Sexual Violence), who are trained and supervised by the Wellness Center, presented 30 workshops on Sexual Violence, Consent & Communication; Dating Violence & Health Relationships; and Stalking. PEERS workshop activity will grow as part of a sexual assault prevention curriculum development plan.
Online Education for Faculty & Staff
All AU faculty and staff – about 3,000 employees, were required to complete an online training module on Title IX and Campus SaVE during 2014-2015. New faculty and staff will take the course when they are hired.
Resources for Survivors of Sexual Violence
OASIS - The Office of Advocacy Services for Interpersonal and Sexual Violence
Commencing in April 2015, OASIS has provided a single point of contact for the Wellness Center’s two full time victim advocates. Advocacy is a confidential service aiding students affected by sexual violence, dating and domestic violence, and stalking. Email: OASIS@american.edu; phone: (202) 885-7070; website: www.american.edu/ocl/OASIS.
Full Time Title IX Program Officer
The search for a full time Title IX Program Officer, authorized in the most recent budget cycle, concluded without an appointment. The search has been re-opened and will again include a number of campus stakeholders in campus interviews and candidate presentations. We expect to bring new finalists to campus by the end of September. The contact for Title IX related matters is: (202) 885-3310; TitleIX@american.edu.
Assistant Vice President of Campus Life and Dean of Students Rob Hradsky will continue to serve as AU’s Title IX Coordinator until a new appointment is made. He has worked in this capacity since 2012. Dr. Hradsky and the deputy Title IX coordinators may be contacted at the following email addresses:
Rob Hradsky, Assistant Vice President of Campus Life & Dean of Students (for undergraduate and graduate students and University Coordinator) – firstname.lastname@example.org;
Mary L. Clark, Dean of Academic Affairs & Senior Vice Provost (for faculty, faculty administrators and individuals carrying out teaching assignments) – email@example.com;
Beth Muha, Assistant Vice President of Human Resources (for staff, university administrators, university guests and contractors) – firstname.lastname@example.org;
David Jaffe, Associate Dean of Student Affairs (for Washington College of Law (WCL) students) – email@example.com.
Steps to Incident Reporting & Support Services
Students asked for simplified guides to AU’s Title IX complaint process and to services for survivors. Charts are now available that map the options and resources for survivors of sexual assault. Confidential and non-confidential resources are clearly marked. The AU community may access the charts at: www.american.edu/ocl/wellness/reporting-interpersonal-violence.cfm
Privacy Screens for Complainants
Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution Services has implemented the use of a privacy screen between the complainant and the respondent in cases involving interpersonal violence.
Campus Climate Assessment
The Biennial Survey of Sexual Violence, Dating Violence, and Bystander Intervention, developed by AU Professorial Lecturer Jane Palmer and sponsored by the Office of Campus Life, was administered in spring 2015 to an expanded stratified random sample of AU undergraduate, graduate, and law students. We will share survey results at the Fall 2015 Town Hall Meeting hosted by the Sexual Assault Working Group. We also collect data on interpersonal and sexual violence from the American College Health Assessment, as well as Haven – Understanding Sexual Assault. Think About It, AU’s new online education program that replaced Haven, will also provide data from incoming undergraduate, graduate and law students to inform AU’s approach to prevention education and support for survivors.
“Sexual exploitation” has been added to prohibited conduct covered under the Student Conduct Code, and definitions for “sexual assault” and “sexual harassment” have been updated. In addition to adding definitions for “sexual exploitation” and “rape,” to the Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Policy, the policy is being revised to make it easier to read and understand. The revised policy is expected to take effect by the start of fall classes.
Thank you again to the many members of the AU community who have contributed to the work described in this communication and who have “stepped up” in their personal conduct to help make AU a safe and welcoming environment for all. The Sexual Assault Working Group welcomes suggestions for further ways to enhance AU’s work on this critical issue. You may communicate with the committee by emailing SAWG@american.edu.
We also hope you will attend the Fall Semester Town Hall on Sexual Assault Prevention for a fuller discussion of the issues and measures described in this letter and to share your views and ideas. The Town Hall is planned for Monday, October 5, 7:00-8:30 p.m. in McDowell Formal Lounge.
UPDATE: Summer 2014 – Spring 2015
Sexual Assault Intervention Strategies AU’s intervention strategies to address sexual misconduct are guided by the recommendations from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and the Violence Against Women Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013). They are directed toward four areas:
I. Policy Development
Definitions of “Prohibited Conduct” in the AU Student Conduct Code now align with sexual violence terms outlined in VAWA 2013. Prohibited Conduct includes “Interpersonal violence including, but not limited to, physical assault, dating violence and domestic violence.”
Stalking and Harassment are listed as separate violations.
The definition of Stalking is: “Repeated, unwanted contact with any person, including contact by electronic means or by proxy, or the credible threat of repeated contact with the intent to place a reasonable person in fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family or close acquaintances or to inflict substantial emotional distress.”
New definitions have been added to the Student Conduct Code:
Physical Assault: “Unwanted physical contact or the use of physical force to threaten or cause physical injury, pain, or illness.”
Dating Violence: “Violence or abusive behavior against an intimate partner (romantic, dating, or sexual partner) that seeks to control the partner or has caused harm to the partner (the harm may be physical, verbal, emotional, economic, or sexual in nature). The existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on consideration of the following factors: the length of the relationship, the type of relationship, and the frequency of the interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.”
Domestic Violence: “Violence or abusive behavior against a roommate, family member, or intimate partner that causes physical or psychological injury, pain, or illness.”
The Student Conduct Code has been reorganized so that it is easier for victims/survivors to see their rights and responsibilities by stating them both in relevant sections of the Code and in summary in the Code’s section, II. Responsibilities and Rights.
The university’s revised Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Policy became effective on August 1, 2014. It incorporates the same terms and definitions for dating violence, domestic violence and stalking that were added to the Student Conduct Code. It also lists AU’s confidential resources for victims/survivors.
II. Education & Training
Bystander intervention training is identified by the White House Task Force as one of the strategies with the greatest promise for reducing incidents of sexual assault.
New Bystander Intervention Program. AU launched a new bystander intervention program at Eagle Summit and during Welcome Week 2014. The program is adapted from the highly rated STEP UP! program developed by the NCAA in collaboration with the University of Arizona. Over the course of six, two-day programs, approximately 1,200 new students and their family members were introduced to the bystander intervention program, STEP UP – Be more than a bystander, and coached in STEP UP strategies. Following the Critical Issues session, which addresses sexual violence, 90.8% of student participants strongly agreed or agreed that After attending Eagle Summit, I am more familiar with critical issues affecting the AU community and the resources provided to address them.
All new students learn how to apply the program’s Five Decision Making Steps: (1) Notice the Event, (2) Interpret it as a Problem, (3) Assume Personal Responsibility, (4) Know How to Help, and (5) STEP UP
STEP UP training is conducted for orientation coordinators and leaders, residence hall staff (resident assistants, program associates, desk receptionists, and Residence Hall Association leaders), all student athletes, fraternity and sorority members, and other student leaders. Special request and open sign-up bystander intervention training are available throughout the year.
The STEP UP program and bystander intervention Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are promoted on campus through the Wellness Cabana, the residence hall bathroom bulletin (Flushington Post), electronic message boards, print materials, the STEP UP web site, and social media.
The bystander awareness and training video debuted in August 2014 on the STEP UP web site, in the introductions to STEP UP training sessions, and at www.Facebook.com/StepUpAU.
Social Media Campaign. You can follow STEP UP on Facebook and Twitter (@StepUp_AU) to see how members of the AU community are stepping up.
U ASK DC app. At Eagle Summit’s AU Community Showcase, the Wellness staff assists new students in downloading the app for U ASK DC, so that they will have immediate access to the information needed most in the event of a sexual assault on one of DC’s nine college campuses. The app is confidential and free. [Search "U ASK DC" on the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, or Blackberry Appworld.] U ASK DC is also promoted through the campus electronic message boards and downloading procedures are reviewed at the mandatory residence hall floor meetings during Welcome Week.
Online Education. All new undergraduate, graduate and law students are expected to complete the online course, Haven–Understanding Sexual Assault (EverFi), prior to their arrival at AU for the fall semester. Haven teaches lessons about healthy relationships, the importance of consent and being a good communicator, and the many ways you can help create a safe and positive campus community. Haven includes a pre- and post-survey, and all responses are confidential. The university receives only information about students as a population, never individual answers. Students receive repeated reminders until they have completed the training.
University Police Consortium Training Academy. AU Public Safety hosted the 10-week Academy during Summer 2014 and expanded the training module on “preliminary investigations” to place greater emphasis on sexual assault investigations. The newly hired police cadets who attended from a number of university police departments learned about the three primary responsibilities of law enforcement in sexual assault cases: (1) protect, interview, and support the victim/survivor; (2) investigate the crime and apprehend the perpetrator; and (3) collect and preserve evidence of the assault to assist in prosecution of the assailant. The Academy training complements established programs for AU Public Safety officers on sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking.
Faculty and staff training on Title IX and the Campus SAVE Act. All full- and part-time faculty and staff members (about 3,000 employees) are required to complete an online training module on Title IX and Campus Save. Staff will be evaluated on their completion of the training as part of the Staff Performance Management Program. Refresher training will be required on a periodic basis, and the course will be required for all new faculty and staff going forward.
III. Victim Support
To build capacity for victim/survivor advocacy and ensure that we have enough trained staff and student volunteers to support an expanding calendar of sexual assault prevention and bystander intervention workshops, the Office of Campus Life’s Wellness Center hired a second sexual assault prevention coordinator and victim advocate in August 2014.
IV. Campus Climate Assessment
Campus Life will administer the National College Health Assessment to all undergraduate and law students in April 2015. This national survey contains sections on Violence, Abusive Relationships and Personal Safety and on Sexual Behavior.
AU Professor Jane Palmer will conduct her biennial survey of sexual violence, dating violence and bystander intervention on campus in March 2015. The 2015 administration of the survey has been expanded to include graduate and law students. Survey results are shared with the campus community through a variety of means, including semi-annual Open Forums.
AU has joined with other members of the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCCADV) Campus Consortium to take advantage of a Department of Justice grant to support the development and sharing of best practices and model policies and programs directed at compliance with the federal requirements for the Campus SAVE Act. As part of this commitment, AU will host one of DCCADV’s organized trainings, encourage AU faculty and staff to attend, and designate staff to participate in quarterly meetings that will facilitate the exchange of information. Through this collaboration, Assistant VP of Campus Life and Dean of Students, Rob Hradsky, and Assistant Director of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services, Regina Curran, participated in the Office of Violence Against Women Technical Training Institute in February 2015. In particular, the training focused on developing strong coordinated community response teams and trauma-informed approaches to the student conduct process.
Assistant VP of Campus Life and Dean of Students Rob Hradsky chairs the Sexual Assault Working Group(SAWG). The Group is charged with (1) ensuring continuity in sexual assault prevention commitments and (2) continuing to shape AU’s intervention strategies consistent with the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2013. The committee’s work is transparent, as are the data gathered on students’ experiences with sexual violence and on the effectiveness of the measures we implement. Recommendations formulated by Student Government are integrated into the SAWG agenda.
In Spring 2015, the Sexual Assault Working Group:
Heightened the visibility of victim advocate services by branding victim advocacy services “OASIS”- Office of Advocacy Services for Interpersonal & Sexual violence in the Wellness Center;
Developed a flowchart to guide students through confidential and non-confidential resources;
Expanded information brochures to address sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking; and
Previewed a selection of online educational programs on sexual violence to identify the best alternatives for our campus community.
Expanded web resources to explain the role of victim advocates and better articulate the resources available to students.
Proposed additions to the Student Conduct Code and Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Policy that are currently under review.
Town Hall Meetings on Sexual Assault Prevention are hosted twice annually by SAWG. 2014-2015 dates are:
September 17, 2014, 8 – 9:30 pm in the Letts Hall Formal Lounge