EverFi Elevates the Conversation About Campus Sexual Assault

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Lynn Rosenthal
White House Advisor on Violence Against Women

Great things happen when the right people are part of the process.

According to special guest speaker Lynn Rosenthal,White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, EverFi’s panel event on campus sexual assault prevention at the National Press Club on Wednesday brought together “exactly the right people to have this very conversation.” Indeed, the panelists represented public policy (Lisa Maatz, VP of Government Relations at AAUW), campus prevention (Holly Rider-Milkovich, Director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center at the University of Michigan), and research and evaluation (Helen Stubbs, VP of Partner Education at EverFi), with closing remarks from Sharon Love (Founder/Trustee of the One Love Foundation). Audience members included representatives from local colleges and universities and national advocacy organizations*.

Insights and Implications

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National Press Club
Washington, DC

New data collected from over 200,000 incoming college students was presented by Dr. Dan Zapp (Associate Director of Research, EverFi), coinciding with the recent release of EverFi’s Insight Report titled “The Relationship Between Alcohol and Sexual Assault on the College Campus.” The data reinforce that most students come to college with relatively healthy attitudes and behaviors. However, a small minority of students move in a very negative direction after coming to college, with higher reports of unhealthy attitudes and perceptions and greater rates of sexual assault victimization and perpetration. This trend coincides with increased alcohol use and decreased protective behaviors. While the concurrent relationship between alcohol and sexual assault is clear in the data, causality cannot be inferred in either direction. This is important to note, as all too often the role of alcohol is portrayed in a way that inappropriately places responsibility and blame on victims.

This new research offers important considerations and implications for campus prevention practitioners. These include:

  • the need to identify and target these high-risk students
  • the importance of social norms and bystander intervention approaches
  • collaboration and co-curricular education on alcohol and sexual assault, especially in the first six weeks after matriculation
  • more and better evaluation of campus prevention efforts
  • increased support for survivors
  • risk-reduction education framed within the context of health promotion
  • comprehensive programming stressing primary prevention


Unmasking the Issue

According to Maatz, “ The only way we can address this problem is by actually talking about it and doing what we need to acknowledge what’s happening.”  This statement represented the need for more and better data collection and reporting to truly understand what is taking place on campuses. At first glance, the data may not look good. According to Rider-Milkovich, improved policy, prevention, and outreach efforts may result in a marked increase in students seeking services for sexual assault. This is a good sign, however, as students feel supported enough by their institution to come forward – a vital step in changing the campus culture. Rider-Milkovich referenced the need for a “data anxiety vaccine,” stating that the data are not good or bad – “it is what is.”

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(From left: Tammy Wincup (COO, EverFi), Sharon Love (Founder & Trustee, One Love Foundation), Lisa Maatz (VP of Government Relations, AAUW), Holly Rider-Milkovich (Director of Sexual Assault Prevention, University of Michigan), Helen Stubbs, VP of Higher Education, EverFi), Dr. Dan Zapp (Director of Research, EverFi)

Maatz spoke to the reticence of campuses in reporting on sexual violence: “More data is not a public relations nightmare, it is a public relations opportunity.” Understanding the state of the problem and the needs of students allows practitioners to make informed decisions about prevention and response. Increased evaluation of campus programming allows for more effective prevention efforts, and is critical for deepening the evidence base of the field. However, many campuses are constrained in their resources for evaluation. Currently, OVW campus grant recipients can only use 5% of funding for evaluation. “This is something we can take on,” says Maatz.

The Importance of Primary Prevention

“The perpetrator is the problem but the victim is always the focus,” said Sharon Love, shining light on the need for increased efforts to prevent violence before it occurs. The Campus SaVE Act explicitly calls for primary prevention programs for all incoming students and staff, but lacks guidance for campus practitioners on what this means and how it should be done. Discussing the challenges of changing a campus culture, Stubbs outlined the need for community-based approaches including social norms and bystander intervention. One of the most powerful ways to prevent perpetration is to change perpetrators’ perceptions of peer support for their problematic attitudes and behaviors.

When asked how to address the interplay between alcohol and sexual assault, Rider-Milkovich encouraged practitioners to “rewind” the conversation and talk about why college students feel the need to be drunk in order to engage in sexual behavior. From a truly “upstream” perspective, Maatz stressed the importance of talking early and talking often about these issues: “We need to start thinking about education on sexual assault and relationship violence for K-12 students.”

* National advocacy organizations present included: National Sexual Violence Resource Center, National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Organization for Women, VTV Family Outreach Foundation, Break the Cycle, One Love Foundation, Feminist Majority Foundation, American Association of University Women, Jewish Women International, YWCA USA, National Women’s Law Center, and Wider Opportunities for Women. EverFi sends a special thank you to all attendees.

 

Recent News and Upcoming EverFi Event Symbolize Change

“It seems that nearly every first-year student coming to campus is aware of the ‘Freshman 15’ — the fabled 15-pound weight gain caused by a diet of Ramen Noodles and Easy Mac. Unfortunately, there is one other lesser known statistic that can have a huge impact on students’ lives: 20-25% of college women experience attempted or completed rape during their college career.”

I borrowed this introduction from a piece I wrote in September 2009 for the campus newspaper as the Violence Prevention Coordinator at UC Irvine.Four years later, as we embark on the beginning of another school year, it may seem that little has changed. College students are still eating on a budget, and sexual violence is unfortunately still a tragic part of the college experience for far too many women and men.  However, with a recent wave of investigations of campus Title IX enforcement, unprecedented student activism, and new legislation going into effect in March, it’s clear that change is in the air.

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In an effort to elevate the national dialogue and continue the momentum for positive change, EverFi will be hosting an event on September 18 focusing on sexual assault prevention in higher education. In addition to a panel discussion among experts in the field about upcoming legislation and best practices for prevention, we will be presenting compelling new data we’ve collected from over 200,000 college students that shed light on significant shifts in attitudes and behaviors among incoming students, with important implications for practitioners and researchers.  The event is being hosted at Washington DC’s National Press Club and is open to the public.

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Find out more and RSVP at  http://info.everfi.com/havenpanelsignup.html.

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Understanding the Landscape of Sexual Assault Prevention

EverFi Panel Discussion
Wednesday, September 18th
9am-11am (breakfast will be served)
The National Press Club – First Amendment Room
529 14th Street NW, Washington, DC

Panelists include:

  • Holly Rider-Milkovich, Director of Sexual Assault Prevention Center, University of Michigan
  • Lisa Maatz, Vice President of Government Relations, American Association of University Women
  • Sharon Love, Founder and Trustee, One Love Foundation
  • Helen Stubbs, Vice President of Partner Education, EverFi

For questions, please contact Sarah Peck at speck@everfi.com or (202)625-0011 ext. 361

More information and registration

Higher Stakes, Greater Promise This Fall

I’ve taken part in many a back-to-school rush through the years – as a student of course, but also as a teacher, a parent and recently on behalf of EverFi.

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I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a rush like this year’s.

The end of summer inevitably brings a bit of disappointment for our kids – but it offers an exciting sense of possibility for educators: a fresh start. New students to impact. New programs to explore. Opportunities to improve and expand.

This year these opportunities are magnified through the lens of Common Core and the transition to online assessment. If nothing else, these shifts, impacting the vast majority of America’s schoolchildren, are forcing us to consider closely what and how we’re teaching, and whether that’s actually proving effective.

8272249413_5068b8f59d_nThe educators I’ve spoken with share this sense of possibility: from my child’s teacher to a senior state education department official, I’m hearing that for the first time in years, our schools have the wind at their backs: Funding in many states has taken a turn; class sizes may be declining. And new technology is allowing us to sharpen our instructional methods through personalization, timely feedback and more.

 

But while we may be feeling those tailwinds, the “shore” seems farther off than ever, as we expect more of our students – and thus of our educators – today than ever before.

With new tools we can – and should – go deeper and broader with our students.

With that sharpened focus we can teach skills that up until now we’ve had to neglect, and we can put to use different modalities – ways of teaching and reaching students – so that, indeed, no child gets left behind.

At EverFi we’re thrilled to be helping to meet the deepening and expanding challenges brought about by a globalizing society and an increasingly technology-based economy.  This fall we’ll release a host of new learning courses that teach a range of skills and build a range of knowledge, all in the name of supporting our schools’ and our teachers’ efforts to prepare students for college, careers – and a rapidly changing world.

8894453073_c069d09d2a_nIn the coming months you’ll find news about these new courses on our website – and, we believe, you’ll find information about them in the news, because as ever, EverFi is taking on newsmaking subjects, meeting tough-to-handle challenges and tough-to-broach topics.

Yes, summer has ended, and school’s back in session – but this ain’t your father’s back-to-school rush. This year, with some wind at our backs, we’re going further to give our kids the skills they deserve.