HARTFORD, CT, January 18, 2013 – The third in a series of campus report cards was released this week and it showed that considerable progress has been made in addressing the issue of sexual violence on Connecticut college and university campuses. The highest marks were awarded for written policies and post-assault response efforts, while the only failing grade was handed out for educating and training members of Greek organizations.
The results, which were compiled by Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS), were based on a survey of 21 of the state’s 24 four-year schools in conjunction with the Connecticut College Consortium Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) and the Connecticut Campus Coalition to End Violence Against Women.
The report card, which followed similar ones issued in 1999 and 2007, was distributed and a panel discussion was held Thursday in the Smith House on Trinity’s campus. Representatives of several Connecticut colleges and universities were present, as well as victim advocates and state Sen. Beth Bye of West Hartford, co-chairwoman of the state legislature’s higher education committee.
Bye was instrumental in helping to enact a law last year that provides guidelines for campuses to follow regarding sexual violence prevention and response. It requires all Connecticut campuses to provide students with prevention and awareness training related to sexual assault and intimate partner violence.
Bye said the law would not have been enacted without the support of Connecticut’s institutions of higher learning, and particularly the testimony of female students. “It was the personal stories that moved us.” Bye, who once worked at the child-care center on the Trinity campus, singled out the College for praise in requiring its Greek organizations to go co-ed in coming years. “It was so brave of the campus to take that on; it was really courageous.”
Other spoke of the broader state picture, which was based on the responses to a 127-question survey.
“Institutions of higher education are becoming much more savvy about the dynamics of sexual violence, what perpetration looks like, and how to provide support to survivors,” said Beth Hamilton, CONNSACS’ director of prevention and programs. “While we are encouraged by the progress we’ve seen in recent years, we need to see improvement in education and training for the entire campus community, especially those people who will be responding to or working with survivors.”
However, Hamilton noted that despite the need for improvement in some areas, “overall, we’re actually doing great here in the state of Connecticut.”
Concerted action is needed because research has shown that up to one in four women will be sexually assaulted during their college careers, and students who are victims are more likely than their peers to skip class, perform poorly in the classroom or withdraw from school.
According to the report released Thursday, the state’s higher education community has taken steps to institutionalize policies and practices to ensure that survivors have access to both on-campus and community-based services, receive support during the adjudication process and have access to other resources. An “overwhelming majority of schools now require that first-year students receive sexual assault education as part of an orientation program,” the report says. Also, the total number of campus response teams, which bring key stakeholders together to coordinate the campus’ response to sexual assault, continues to increase, as does the number of schools that have campus staff specifically charged with coordinating and facilitating access to victim services.
Laura Lockwood, director of Trinity’s Women, Gender & Resource Action Center (WGRAC) and a panelist at the press conference, noted that the College is fortunate to be a member of CCASA since the 1990s and one of nine institutions to be a recipient of a Department of Justice (DOJ) grant. “Our partnership with CONNSACS and membership in CCASA has brought Trinity innumerable benefits in our campaign to eradicate sexual violence on campus and create a culture of respect, justice and fairness.”
The DOJ grant has provided resources for primary prevention programs, training for Trinity’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), campus safety officers and judicial board members, and opportunities to learn and apply best practices gleaned from campus across the country.
Lockwood, who has been at Trinity for 15 years, explained that WGRAC oversees the coordination of SART, as well as the first-year student education and prevention programs.
“We serve the entire campus, and ensure our programs are free, accessible and open to the public,” Lockwood said. “Our mission is to empower and create student leaders, create positive change on campus, provide a safe space and resource center, and address inequities and injustices based on gender, race, ethnicity, class, religion…gender identity and sexual orientation.” Although the focus is on women, the programs include male students, faculty and staff.
Students at Trinity learn the definition of rape, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking, sexual harassment, and most importantly, consent. They also learn about reporting options, meet the College’s Title IX coordinator and SART members, and learn of on- and off-campus resources and of the school’s policy on sexual misconduct and discrimination, including the penalties for violating the policy.
Trinity annually hosts a Take Back the Night program and a production of The Vagina Monologues. A Red Flag Campaign, financed by the DOJ, teaches students about intimate partner violence and how to actively prevent such violence. Other programs have included a screening of The Invisible War, which portrays the epidemic of female and male members in the military, and an appearance by Byron Hurt, an award-winning filmmaker who held a workshop on male socialization and gender roles in regard to sexual violence.
Using the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program as a foundation, Lockwood noted that Trinity has created the BANTS training program: Bantams Negating Traditional Stereotypes. The goal of BANTS is to increase the awareness and skills of participants to be able to identify and interrupt behaviors that contribute to a community where violence and injustice exists. Also, several coaches have received training, and administrators have worked with student leaders and various student organizations, including Greek pledges. One of Trinity’s latest ventures is the launching of a men’s group, the Male Ambassadors program.
As of now, Lockwood said WGRAC has trained more than 500 students. The goal is to meet the requirements of the new law, spearheaded by Bye, and provide education and training to all members of the campus community.
Overall, Lockwood said, “Trinity has been vigilant in trying to upend this culture [of sexual violence], and we are gradually succeeding.”
Other panel members included, Elizabeth Conklin, associate vice president and Title IX coordinator in the Office of Diversity and Equity at the University of Connecticut; Maria Busineau, program manager of the Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Eastern Connecticut; and Bye.
Read a related story on how a gift from a Trinity alumna helped support the efforts of the Women & Gender Resource Action Center.
The 2012 Campus Report Card is available on CONNSACS’ Web site at: http://connsacs.org/