Colleges and universities are not infallible when it comes to managing issues of sexual misconduct and assault. Educational efforts are touted by Student Affairs departments, information gets distributed to students and parents during orientation, and systems are set up to provide support for students struggling through incidents of sexual harassment or assault. Unfortunately, the system does not always work out as intended. There are many students who have felt challenged by policies and procedures that delay or complicate their hope to resolve their situations. Over 55 schools have come under fire for their work to manage and support students through cases of sexual misconduct.
One such case involves the recent issue at James Madison University, involving the expulsion of students after their graduation.
The University of North Caroline, Morgan State University, Frostburg State University, Johns Hopkins University, and Harvard University, to name a few, have all come under fire by the Department of Education for the mishandling of cases.
While the policies and procedures are for the Department of Education and the universities to review and manage, students still have an opportunity to take preventative measures to avoid needing to enact the sexual misconduct processes. While many sexual misconduct cases include alcohol, many of them do not. To be safe, students should take the following precautions:
- Be aware of your environment. How well do you know the people around you? Is the area well lit? Do you know where blue light phones are located?
- Be aware of your resources. While self-defense classes can be helpful for confidence, it is better to know what resources campus police and departments provide. Are there phone apps or important numbers you should program into your contact list? Are there transportation services provided by public safety or transportation?
- Know your friends and acquaintances. While 80-90% of sexual assaults are committed by someone the survivor knows, social pressure is a dangerous tactic used to complete the act. Substances sometimes contribute to the misconduct. Clarity in saying no can help, but any resistance to sexual acts needs to be respected.
- Keep records. If someone sends offensive or threatening pictures or texts, save them. If they leave obsessive or aggressive voicemails, save them. They can be used as evidence if safety becomes a serious concern.
It is the responsibility of people to protect themselves and to recognize signs of resistance to prevent and avoid issues of misconduct. If an incident happens, reporting is the best option, but persistence is required to come to a resolution.
If you have suggestions for proactive and reactive measures, please feel free to comment below.