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Comparison: UI, Big Ten schools and how they deal with sexual-assault prevention

BY DANIELLE SCHAEFER | AUGUST 29, 2014 5:00 AM

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The prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses has been a recent concern for many and has been put on the White House’s agenda as of January 2014 with its “1 is 2 Many” campaign.

Now, college administrators are focused on promoting their policies and resources to keep students safe.

“[Our prevention programs] include raising awareness, promoting bystander skills, as well as making sure people are aware of our policies and resources, such as confidential services from victim advocates,” said Monique DiCarlo, the University of Iowa’s sexual-misconduct-response coordinator.

Iowa’s strategy for combating sexual assault starts with programs designed for incoming students. This plan includes a required online course.

“Our pre-orientation strategy is to ensure that students are aware of resources, aware of the problem, and what kinds of skills might be helpful in keeping themselves, as well as others, safe,” DiCarlo said. “There’s a very strong focus in the online programming in teaching bystander education.”

The university’s emphasis on bystander training continues as students make their transitions to campus.

“Our orientation strategy is to complement that bystander education as well as other information shared in the online programming and in skill-building workshops during OnIowa,” said DiCarlo.

Although the university issues several messages about sexual-assault prevention, workshops are not mandatory after a student’s freshman year.

The program also works to ensure that for the rest of students’ experiences on campus, they hear same messages from the university about sexual-assault prevention.

Despite the university initiatives, there are still cases of sexual misconduct.

At the UI, 12 warnings about sexual misconduct were issued during the 2013-14 school year.

Other Big Ten schools also take preventative measures seriously, including pre-orientation programs as part of their initiative to counter sexual assault.

Holly Rider-Milkovich, the University of Michigan’s director of sexual-assault awareness and prevention, said incoming students are required to take an online course, Community Matters, in August before coming to campus.

These lessons are built upon as soon as students arrive, she said.

“When students participate in freshman Orientation, they get their first dose of information through a peer theater experience, which frames the topic in our values and definition as a campus,” Rider-Milkovich said. “That peer theater experience is followed by a guided conversation about the need to obtain consent and healthy relationships.”

At Michigan, students are given diverse programs, ranging from the theater production to workshops, but they all carry the same message.

“Research demonstrates that prevention activities and education is most effective when delivered in numerous modalities over an extended period of time by a variety of speakers, including peers and institution educators, sharing information in different ways and addressing different learning styles,” Rider-Milkovich said.

The initiatives are not required for upperclassmen.

While Indiana University follows a similar model in its sexual-assault-prevention program, it also put emphasis on its student organizations that focus on preventing sexual misconduct.

One of its main organizations, called Culture of Care, has proven to the institution that peer-to-peer advocacy is effective.

“Culture of Care is student-led and trying to enhance our understanding of consent,” said Director of Development David Spencer. “On our campus, when we have students come in to report an assault, often they refer to programs like these where they learned how and where to report information or bystander education.”


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