Campus Sexual Assault is a Public Health Issue

Campus Sexual Assault is a Public Health Issue

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is focusing on campus rape prevention. Responding to the 2014 Obama White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, the CDC created a think tank to evaluate emerging prevention efforts and to determine best practices for college and university campuses.

The CDC partnered with the American Public Health Association (APHA) to bring in subject matter experts and other interested people, including students, researchers, sexual violence prevention educators, and law enforcement. During multi-day action planning sessions, the group considered current programs on campuses, determined what’s working best, and evaluated future opportunities.

The resulting report, Sexual Violence on Campus: Strategies for Prevention, details specific recommendations for colleges and universities to make their campuses safer from sexual assault. When schools implement the recommendations of the CDC, they’ll begin a shift in campus culture and climate that help prevent sexual violence.

Here are some essential recommendations made by the CDC:

  • Provide campus sexual assault prevention training across campus to students, staff, and administration
  • Deliver prevention training separately from general orientation for incoming students
  • Make sexual assault prevention training mandatory
  • Offer cohesive training in multiple ways; stand-alone programs like online classes and theater presentation are seen to be ineffective
  • Educate the entire campus about bystander intervention
  • Use data specific to the college or university to create tailored prevention programs
  • Employ trained full-time staff to work on campus sexual assault prevention programs
  • Mobilize men as allies to stop sexual violence and foster healthy norms about masculinity and healthy relationships
  • Create consistent messages across campus and make prevention a part of everyone’s role by involving people from different communities, including students, staff, administrators, law enforcement, athletic programs, Greek organizations, LGBTQ groups, women’s centers, victim services, and other community organizations

The CDC acknowledges that the shift in culture required to prevent campus sexual assault will take time, and that it’s difficult work. However, culture change does happen. The research-based recommendations of the CDC are an effective guide that can move colleges and universities into a future where their campuses are safe from campus sexual assault.

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Sheri Heitker Dixon is the founder of Keep Her Safe, a non-profit organization committed to making college campuses safe from sexual assault.

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