This past week was a big week if you know anyone who’s ever been to or who is ever going to go to college in the United States of America.
The US Department of Education released a list of 55 schools (full list below) that have open Title IX sexual violence investigations, bringing a new era of transparency to the conversation around the sexual assault epidemic at college.
The general media reaction to this list has been, “Wow, look at all those good schools on the list… who would have guessed?” When the real question should be, “is this list a sign of things to come, are we seeing the tip of the iceberg?”
One of the common misconceptions is that sexual violence doesn’t happen in “my neighborhood” or “my socio-economic class” or “my religion.” When in fact sexual violence crosses all demographic borders. It is a crisis that unifies us. It is woven into our culture in subtle, often insidious ways. It is happening at every single school.
One of the most effective ways to prevent sexual violence is to get men involved in addressing cultural norms.
Research has shown that 3% of college men account for 90-95% of all sexual assaults on college campuses. And those 3% – the high-risk men – are proven to commit 40% fewer coercive acts if they’re part of a men’s program. Get that? The vast majority of men are good, are not the problem, and are actually the solution – if we band together.
The White House has started to catch on.
This list came on the heels of a report and a brilliant (albeit short) PSA from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault (which is increasingly looking like a particular pet project for President Obama).
The PSA titled “1 is 2 Many” is aimed squarely at men, approaching the two main areas where men can do the most good in the campaign to end sexual assault. The first area is called “Bystander Intervention” – which is similar to the designated driver concept… guys we have to intervene to “stop sexual assault.” The second area is sometimes called the “Secondary Survivor” role – which is when we are given the opportunity to help a survivor without blame or shame.
While the video isn’t expansive about how or what to do, it’s definitely a step in the right direction for raising awareness. And hopefully someone on the Task Force understands that successful intervention starts way before the situation goes sour… the best research shows that prevention of sexual violence begins with cultural norms around masculinity (which is why The Good Men Project is so vitally important to this cause).
And if you really don’t think you know anyone who has been assaulted, here’s a logical reason to get on this bandwagon: research from the End Violence Against Women campaign has shown that violence against women costs society $67 billion each year, with each sexual offense costing an estimated $203,740.
Sexual violence creates more than just an emotional or physical scarring, every sexual trauma creates tangible ripples throughout families, communities, and our whole society.
For the first time in more than a decade of working with college assault prevention, I have to say, personally, this is the most encouraged I’ve ever been about the legitimate prospect of ending sexual violence on campus. It’s still fresh, but with the White House now involved, and Title IX hanging over the heads of schools… we may be seeing the tip of the iceberg.
The Full List of Universities:
|AZ||Arizona State University|
|CA||Butte-Glen Community College District|
|CA||University of California-Berkeley|
|CA||University of Southern California|
|CO||University of Colorado at Boulder|
|CO||University of Colorado at Denver|
|CO||University of Denver|
|CT||University of Connecticut|
|DC||Catholic University of America|
|FL||Florida State University|
|HI||University of Hawaii at Manoa|
|ID||University of Idaho|
|IL||University of Chicago|
|MA||Harvard University—Law School|
|MA||University of Massachusetts-Amherst|
|MD||Frostburg State University|
|MI||Michigan State University|
|MI||University of Michigan-Ann Arbor|
|NC||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill|
|ND||Minot State University|
|NY||Cuny Hunter College|
|NY||Hobart and William Smith Colleges|
|NY||Sarah Lawrence College|
|NY||Suny at Binghamton|
|OH||Ohio State University|
|OK||Oklahoma State University|
|PA||Carnegie Mellon University|
|PA||Franklin and Marshall College|
|PA||Pennsylvania State University|
|TX||Southern Methodist University|
|TX||The University of Texas-Pan American|
|VA||College of William and Mary|
|VA||University of Virginia|
|WA||Washington State University|
|WI||University of Wisconsin-Whitewater|
|WV||West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine|
Photo courtesy of Lars Plougmann