An Empty Nest, Full Heart, and Still Working to Stop Campus Sexual Assault

An Empty Nest, Full Heart, and Still Working to Stop Campus Sexual Assault

My full heart fills the space of our empty nest as our only child flies on her own. Her father and I aren’t giving in to the stereotype of the empty nest. Instead, we revel in our success: a young woman who has worked hard and cultivated her intellect, who’s curious, funny, and bold. She has the confidence and competence to move 1,200 miles away. She’s excited about her field of study and drawn to some new subjects as the university world opens up to her. She approaches new people with a kind heart and an open mind.

This is a triumph, so there’s no room in my heart for sadness. To give in to emotions of what can seem like a loss would be to overshadow the joy of a successful launch into her college phase. Tears during this transition would only sully my feelings of accomplishment for helping my child navigate the world in a way that facilitates following her heart and desires.

What does sully the experience of releasing her to college is the ongoing risk that she could become a victim of sexual violence on campus. Since I started Keep Her Safe when my daughter was a high school sophomore, there have been few effective efforts to stop campus sexual assault.

I started Keep Her Safe with a plan to engage parents in pressing college and university administrators to do more to prevent campus rape. Naively, I hoped schools would create and implement effective prevention programs before my daughter arrived on campus. Instead, students of the class of 2021 are entering campuses around the country where sexual violence prevention efforts are still minimal, and government requirements relating to sexual assault are being dismantled, leaving students as at-risk of being sexually assaulted as ever.

This is a major disappointment to me, but I’m not quitting my efforts to stop sexual violence on campus. Since I began working on this issue, there’s been research conducted, programs created and evaluated, and a comprehensive list of prevention recommendations released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I believe the CDC recommendations provide the way for college and university administrators to create effective programs and processes for their campuses. They need to do more than check off the boxes of requirements of Title IV and the Campus SAve Act, many of which will no longer be required under the current White House administration. Colleges and universities need to leverage the expertise and resources within their schools to stop this epidemic.

Also, I still believe parents can foster change by making campus sexual assault a consumer issue. The CDC recommendations provide criteria that can be used by parents to evaluate prevention efforts and compare how well various schools are meeting the CDC recommendations.

The updated Keep Her Safe strategy will collect data from colleges and universities to determine how well they are meeting the recommendations of the CDC. We’ll compile the survey results and create a resource for parents to review and compare prevention practices of specific schools. The Keep Her Safe Prevention Survey will be the first tool to allow for a straightforward comparison of the prevention efforts of colleges and universities.

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We believe this new effort will drastically improve parents’ and students’ ability to choose the safest schools—those that work proactively to prevent campus sexual assault. This effort does require resources and funding, though.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Keep Her Safe depends on charitable contributions, which are tax deductible. We’re beginning our Prevention Survey with the largest universities in the US. Please help if you can by visiting our Donations page. Thank you!

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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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Keep Her Safe is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization

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