Dissatisfied with the piecemeal approach to preventing campus sexual assault, a few concerned citizens formed Culture of Respect.
National awareness of the problem of campus sexual assault is perhaps at an all-time high, and discussion and debate on how to solve it has reached a fever pitch. Now, a new non-profit organization has come along with a mission to help colleges and universities develop the resources they need to shift the culture on campus to one that proactively prevents sexual misconduct—Culture of Respect.
Below are excerpts from an interview I conducted with Allison Tombros Korman, Culture of Respect’s Washington, DC-based executive director.
Q: What is Culture of Respect, and how did it get started?
A: Culture of Respect is an independent non-profit whose mission is to help colleges and universities strengthen their sexual assault prevention efforts. Culture of Respect provides schools with a framework, expressed in our Core Blueprint, that serves to facilitate positive behavior change for all constituents on campus. Culture of Respect was founded by three concerned citizens in Connecticut, Sandi Haber Fifield, her husband John Fifield, and Anne Leonard Hardy. The founders were deeply concerned about the high number of women, as well as the smaller number but significant number of men, who experience some form of sexual assault during their college years. Rather than petition for legislation or organize demonstrations, they decided to invest in developing a free set of tools, open via the web to all higher educational institutions, designed to help administrators, faculty, students, and parents implement the changes needed to lower the risk of sexual assault on campus.
Q: Why are you, Allison, so passionate about Culture of Respect’s mission?
A: First, because sexual assault is so prevalent. Studies by the National Institute of Justice and the U.S. Department of Justice indicate that as many as one in 5 women may be the victims of sexual assault while in college. So this is a real and serious problem. Second, it’s an intensely personal problem, one that has devastating consequences for individual people. I’m convinced we can do better, and that we need to move from a culture that allows this to happen to a Culture of Respect. My own background is in reproductive health and reproductive rights, so I come from a place of believing that every person has the right to do what they want, and not to do what they don’t want, with their own body. I’m also excited about Culture of Respect, because it has implications beyond college campuses. It can help in any organization or arena, for example, professional sports.
Q: How is Culture of Respect different from other organizations that aim to prevent campus sexual assault?
A: We are the only organization that has developed an holistic road map to change that focuses on shifting the entire culture of the institution. Our Core Blueprint outlines strategies for success in six key areas: Self-Assessment, Education, Support, Adjudication, Public Disclosure, and Activism. We help schools make change on multiple levels. It’s more than prevention, more than bystander education, more than guidance with policies for conduct. Schools need help navigating public disclosure and reporting, developing clear policies, providing support and options to survivors, identifying problems, and implementing best practices. A school is a community, and everyone in the community has a role to play in prevention. We believe it’s critical to engage all stakeholders—survivors, students, faculty, staff, parents, health professionals, and administrators to create a cohesive program for change.
Q: What are some of the initiatives Culture of Respect has planned for 2015?
A: Over the past two months we’ve launched our website where our Core Blueprint is live and available to download. We’ve started to recruit schools to adopt the Core Blueprint and to use a variety of methods, including traditional and social media, to reach out to schools and get them to adopt our program. We’ll be continuing these efforts into 2015 and beyond. We will be sharing our Framework with college presidents at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities Annual Meeting.
Q: How can people who want to help get involved with Culture of Respect?
A: Visit the website, log in, and learn more about what we’re doing. Download the Core Blueprint. Talk with parents and high school and college students about sexual assault and bystander prevention. Be a part of the solution. All our information and resources are available free of charge.
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Photo—Tulane Public Relations/Flickr