Research indicates that one-in-five women and one-in-16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. The federal government requires that colleges institute policies, practices and programming to reduce the incidence of sexual assault and create effective response systems when a sexual assault occurs. To accomplish that, partnerships between academic institutions and community organizations are crucial to provide professional and confidential services to survivors and help raise awareness on campus. The linkage helps create safety, autonomy and utilizes people with expertise about sexual assault.
The colleges in Androscoggin County are taking strong initiatives to prevent and respond to sexual violence, and support survivors. At Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services, we partner closely with the University of Southern Maine (LA College), Bates College and Central Maine Community College to address these issues.
Many of the campus sexual assault initiatives fall under Title IX, which is used in the educational setting to create safer environments for all students. Among its regulations to prohibit discrimination, Title IX requires schools to respond to and resolve complaints of sexual harassment, which includes attempted or completed sexual assault. All schools who receive federal funding must be in compliance with those stipulations.
Through a Campus Grant to Reduce Sexual Violence, the University of Southern Maine has been working for more than six years on their Campus Safety Project.
Sarah Holmes, USM’s Assistant Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX coordinator says: “The Campus Safety Project at the University of Southern Maine is an active partnership between the university and our community partners, the sexual assault agencies who provide education and advocacy to our communities. We must work together to make sure that we are addressing the needs of the whole student and community populace if we are to effectively work to prevent sexual assault, and to respond to it appropriately when it happens.”
At LA College, we provide outreach on a weekly basis to make sure that students are aware of services available to sexual assault survivors, education within the college courses whenever appropriate, and college-wide awareness activities. We are also available to provide on campus advocacy and support to any student at LA College who has been sexually assaulted.
Bates College is in the second year of their Campus Grant to Reduce Sexual Violence. As part of that initiative, Bates has created the Prevention. Action. Response. Team (PART), a multidisciplinary team of students, faculty and administration working in collaboration with community partners, including Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services. One of PART’s biggest projects is to develop a comprehensive curriculum to educate students about sexual violence and to prevent it from occurring.
Bates is currently using the Green Dot program, which helps students learn to recognize behaviors that may lead to a sexual assault and develop techniques and strategies to safely intervene. Gwen Lexow,Title IX officer, and Su Langdon, program coordinator of the grant, said, “We are dedicated both to empowering all community members to take action and to fostering a sense of responsibility for others. By coordinating and expanding programming for all students, we believe we can make a difference.”
Bates also provides training to staff and faculty, and to the Sexual Assault Hearing Board, which is responsible for determining the outcome of sexual assault cases reported to the college.
At Central Maine Community College, we work with the college to provide awareness for students about sexual assault and their reporting options. We also provide training to the resident assistants in their dorms to effectively respond to a disclosure of sexual assault and connect the survivor to appropriate services. In addition, we provide advocacy and support services on campus to any student who discloses a sexual assault.
In our community, colleges are committed to effective programming that will educate their students about sexual assault and its prevention, and to developing and providing avenues for survivors seeking remedies, accommodations and resources. As the sexual assault community services provider, we are committed to participating in and supporting these efforts in whatever ways we can.
Working together, we can make important strides toward preventing sexual assault on campus and to ensuring effective response systems.
Hannah Johnson is education advocate for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services.