Rates of sexual assault on college campuses have remained steady at approximately 1 in 5 college women for over 20 years. In addition, sexual assault occurs in same-sex situations and by women against men, although we have few reliable estimates on rates.
In 2010, the Center for Public Integrity published a series of reports exposing the poor response by several college campuses to sexual assault survivors, including unclear student policies, inadequate university police and judicial board procedures, and absent or ineffective prevention and intervention services. In April 2011, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights issued a Dear Colleague Letter that outlined the minimum measures that all college campuses must take in order to address this issue.
In January 2014, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault was established to address the problem of sexual assault on college campuses. The task force issued their first report in April 2014 (www.notalone.gov/assets/report.pdf), listing action steps and recommendations for how college campuses can protect their students from sexual violence.
Clark University in Worcester, MA, has long been committed to providing antiviolence education and prevention services. More than 30 years ago, Daybreak Domestic Violence Services, known as the most comprehensive domestic violence program in the Greater Worcester area, was founded on the Clark University campus. Additionally, the Rape Crisis Center of Central Massachusetts-now Pathways for Change-was started at Clark in 1973.
In 2009, the Clark Anti- Violence Education (CAVE) program was established with the support of generous grants from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women. Currently, the CAVE program offers ongoing prevention and educational services for students at the university.
CAVE is directed by Professors Denise Hines and Kathleen Palm Reed from the Psychology Department. Palm Reed, who is associate director of clinical training and research associate professor in the Psychology Department, said that when she and Hines began working at Clark, they realized they shared an interest in violence prevention.
The goal of the CAVE program is to reduce dating violence and sexual assault at Clark University through education programs and campaigns throughout the year. It is a coordinated effort by several offices at Clark, including law enforcement, the Dean of Students office, athletics, health care services, the counseling center, residence life, judicial board, intercultural affairs, human resources, and representatives from student government and other concerned student groups. CAVE and their on-and off-campus partners provide training to key officials on appropriate response to survivors, effective prevention programming to students, and create and review student policies that clearly define sexual assault, resources for survivors, and sanctions for perpetrators.
This year, the CAVE program is implementing and evaluating a number of violence prevention program initiatives. First, over the summer, all incoming students completed an interactive behavioral modeling online program-Agent of Change-aimed at increasing awareness of violence and increasing bystander behavior. Second, the CAVE program will conduct the "Bringing in the Bystander" prevention program to all first year students in their residence halls in Fall 2014.
This program is approximately 60-90 minutes, and students are divided into groups of about 30 to discuss what dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking are, and how to effectively and safely intervene before, during, and/or after an incident of dating violence or sexual assault that they may witness. Finally, CAVE offered a sexual assault and dating violence education program to all incoming undergraduate and graduate International students during their orientation in August.
CAVE has conducted an anonymous campus climate survey since 2008 to examine rates of sexual assault on campus and help-seeking among survivors. "Between 2008 and 2012, we noticed a significant decrease (25%) in sexual assault victimization. We are continuing to work on reducing those rates, and are encouraged that the rates of help seeking among survivors has increased from 9.5% in 2008 to 33.3% in 2012-that is a 250% increase in help-seeking," says Kathleen Palm Reed, co-director of the CAVE program.
The CAVE program has also earned national recognition. In 2011, CAVE was named by the U.S. Department of Education as a "case study" for violence prevention programming. Clark is one of only seven universities to be singled out as a national model in the violence prevention category. "Through our CAVE program, Clark University has taken a proactive role in violence prevention. We do not have more of a violence problem than any other university, but we do recognize that college students are among the highest risk groups for sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking, and that the only way to deal with this issue is to openly acknowledge, talk about, and take efforts to prevent it," adds Hines, Clark University research associate professor of psychology.
In October 2012, Clark University partnered with three other Worcester campuses-Assumption College, College of the Holy Cross, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute-and was awarded a consortium grant from the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women. The goals of this new award are to extend programming, training, and services targeting the decreasing of sexual and dating violence across campuses in the greater Worcester area.
Over the two years that the four campuses have worked on this grant, we have done several things to accomplish our mission. The group collaborates to: create and share consistent messaging, resources, trainings, and educational events; provide a forum to share goals and philosophies, campus trends, best practices, and policies and procedures; provide professional support across our community; and benchmark with other schools. The long-term goal is to spread the programming, training, and other resources to all twelve colleges and universities in the Greater Worcester area. To that end, the grant consortium group holds quarterly meetings with the twelve colleges of the Worcester area.
For more information, visit www.clarku.edu/offices/cave.
is Associate Director of Clinical Training and Research Associate Professor in the Psychology Department. She has published in the areas of sexual victimization, posttraumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse.
is a Research Associate Professor in the Psychology Department. She is an expert on issues of intimate partner violence.