Is Your Campus Safe? 5 Ways to Know

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The following is a reprint from the latest issue of Ms. To get the entire magazine in your mailbox or inbox, subscribe now!

According to a 2015 Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 1 in 5 women students experience a rape or attempted rape while in college. Here are five ways to gauge your school’s sexual-violence climate.

1.Read your school’s annual crime reports.

The Clery Act is a federal law that requires colleges and universities receiving federal funds to collect statistics on certain crimes, including sex offenses, occurring on campus and in some areas affiliated with or near the school. Schools must publish these statistics in annual crime reports, often available on the school’s website. You can also access the reports using the Department of Education’s Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool. Remember that fewer reported incidents do not necessarily mean more safety.

2.Read the campus sexual misconduct policy.

Title IX requires schools to adopt and publish grievance procedures explaining how students can bring sexual misconduct complaints. Schools must also establish investigation and resolution procedures, should offer relief to survivors and must establish protocols for disciplinary action against offenders. These policies are sometimes published alongside policies regarding other conduct infractions. Acquaint yourself with how your university handles sexual misconduct and how it defines consent. Find out if your school provides survivors with an advocate during grievance proceedings. Look at the minimum sanctions for sexual-misconduct violations and compare them to sanctions for other offenses, such as academic dishonesty. Does the school have a history of actually imposing appropriate sanctions in cases where sexual misconduct is found? Also, determine whether survivors are being offered the accommodations guaranteed to them by federal law, such as no-contact orders and housing accommodations.

3.Find out what campus health and emergency services are available to sexual assault survivors.

Does the university have a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) on staff? If not, is there an agreement with local hospitals or medical centers to provide a SANE nurse? Find out if your university provides STI and HIV testing, and if it offers pregnancy tests or emergency contraception to survivors. Do universities have access to a certified forensic-science laboratory that can test for the full panoply of drugs used for drug- facilitated rape? Best situation: your university would provide these services free of charge.

4. Meet your school’s Title IX coordinator.

Every university is required to have a Title IX coordinator who monitors the school’s compliance with the law, but not every coordinator has enough time, resources, training or background to effectively fulfill their duties. Get to know your Title IX coordinator. If the coordinator is unable to meet the needs of your campus, make your grievances known to the administration. Also, ask your Title IX coordinator if OCR is investigating a complaint against your school or if your school has entered into a voluntary compliance agreement.

5.Look for student activist groups.

A good indicator of the campus climate surrounding sexual assault is whether the university has student-led initiatives to make the campus safer. These could include peer-led prevention and bystander trainings, a student-centered task force, a social justice club, gender and sexual diversity programming, or student involvement on a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART).

Photo courtesy of Wolfram Burner via Creative Commons 2.0.