The voices of survivors and student activists are demanding accountability from college campuses to combat sexual violence. Unprecedented action has been taken by the federal government to ramp up regulations and crack down on schools falling short of their responsibilities to protect and support students. As the result of a predominant focus on compliance with response-related mandates, there continues to be a lack of widespread articulation, understanding, and application of”best practice” for prevention.
When asked to describe their prevention efforts, campus administrators tend to default to listing out the programs they offer to students. This list varies from campus to campus in terms of the number of programs, the timing and target audience, and the underlying evidence-base for each. Regardless of the programmatic variance across institutions, however, an exclusive focus on programs is a myopic approach to prevention. Programming, while critically important, relies on a foundation of institutional commitment to wellness and prevention and engagement in critical processes necessary for doing effective prevention work.
Drawing from key theoretical frameworks and expert analysis gleaned from published literature, EVERFI developed a comprehensive and broadly applicable model for approaching prevention as a process, not a program. This model consists of three tiers: programming, critical processes, and institutionalization. Across these tiers are 22 categories of recommendations, resulting from a qualitative coding of over 300 key findings elucidated from dozens of publications on sexual assault prevention.
A Best Practice Framework for Sexual Assault Prevention
This framework, while useful as a conceptual model, was truly brought to life in April 2015. In collaboration with leading researchers and nationwide prevention professionals, the recommendations were translated into EVERFI’s Sexual Assault Diagnostic Inventory, a comprehensive assessment tool measuring campus prevention efforts across the three pillars of programming, critical processes, and institutionalization.
The Sexual Assault Diagnostic Inventory includes over 80 questions aimed at holistically examining a campus’s prevention approach. The tool begins with a number of demographic questions used for benchmarking and analysis. These include questions about the size of the institution, geographic location, religious affiliation, athletic division, public/private status, and number of graduates and undergraduates. The next set of questions examines prevention programming, focusing on the specific populations reached, frequency of programs, approaches utilized, diversity of educators, etc. The tool then looks at a set of processes deemed critical for effective prevention work, including training of educators, tracking of participation, reliance on theory and evidence, degree of evaluation, and strategic planning efforts. The last set of questions look at the degree of institutionalization around prevention, with questions assessing the number of full-time prevention employees, prevention budget, number of times a school’s senior leaders (President, Chancellor, VPSA, etc.) have publicly communicated about the issue, and the presence, frequency, and degree of progress of a prevention task force.
With over a year of pilot data, EVERFI recently published a report detailing some groundbreaking findings about the state of prevention in higher education, including:
- Sexual assault’s impact on retention, academic success, and more
- Reporting of sexual assault, and student perceptions of institutional response
- The type of programs schools are utilizing the most and least, and the degree to which these programs are research- or evidence-based
- Engagement in strategic planning and goal-setting initiatives (or, lack thereof)
- National trends around prevention funding and staffing, broken down by school type and size
These findings will help campuses identify areas for growth and improvement, but will also highlight the great work they are already doing to support and protect students. With comprehensive insights on their needs and strengths, campuses can truly make transformative impact in addressing sexual violence and creating safer, healthier communities.
To learn more about the Sexual Assault Diagnostic Inventory, and sexual assault prevention best practices, download our new guidebook entitled, “Improving Campus Sexual Assault Prevention: A Best Practice Guide for Administrative Leadership“.