Recent High-Profile Campus Incidents Highlight the Need for Increased Prevention of Campus Violence Training

Three high-profile Title IX lawsuits against major universities in recent months highlight the lack of training taking place on college campuses across the nation. All three incidents involve sexual misconduct on the part of college athletes. Clearly, not enough is being done to curb this sort of behavior, which sadly only gained notoriety due to the visibility of the students accused of the misconduct. Make no mistake, failing to train your students and employees on the dangers of campus violence is not only dangerous, it is also against the law.

By way of background, the Campus SaVE Act amended the Jeanne Cleary Act to require additional reporting measures and education of students and faculty on all college campuses that receive federal funding. Similarly, Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex (including harassment and violent crimes) on all of these same campuses. As such, colleges and universities have a duty to educate members of their communities on the prevention of sexually violent crimes, something that sadly has not taken hold in the wake of studies and reports showing that these types of crimes are still rampant in the college setting.

The first of three recent lawsuits involves the allegations of a University of Oregon woman who claims she was gang-raped in a restroom by three members of the University’s men’s basketball team. The lawsuit also alleges that the University failed to take action until the following May. This troubling incident highlights the fact that some institutions care so much about the negative publicity that comes to light from investigating these incidents that they do nothing until many months after the alleged assaults take place.

A key highlight of Syntrio’s prevention of campus violence training and prevention of harassment on campus courses is providing members of the campus community with the tools to effectively participate in bystander intervention. Although bystander tactics will not necessarily prevent a coordinated gang-rape scenario like the one discussed above, they will provide groups of students with better preparation to stop a potential assault before it starts. Had the basketball players accused of assaulting the Oregon woman been better prepared it is possible that the incident may never have occurred.

A second incident of group assault led to a lawsuit against Vanderbilt University. There, a member of the school’s football team has been accused of involvement in a gang-rape of a female student. This time the accused blamed the school’s culture of “sexual freedom” for allowing him to become involved in the incident. While this excuse is extremely skeptical, it does bring to light the need for highlighting an institution’s policy against sexually violent crimes.

Yet another highlight of prevention of campus violence training courses is education about each individual facility’s mission and culture of preventing crimes against women. By educating faculty and students about the policies of the school for reporting crimes and potential incidents of rape, stalking and domestic violence, members of the community are better prepared to identify the signs of these types of crimes before they occur. Reduction in violent incidents is the goal of Syntrio's training courses, and it is critical that students and faculty are aware that while a school encourages “freedom” and “open-mindedness,” “freedom of sexual violence” is never permitted.

Finally, in perhaps the most high-profile incident of campus violence over the past two years, former Florida State Quarterback (and Heisman trophy winner) Jameis Winston’s accuser has filed a Title IX lawsuit against the University. Winston is accused of sexually assaulting an acquaintance in December 2012. After a lengthy investigation the University determined that Winston did no wrong. The woman’s lawsuit alleges that the University did not do enough to investigate the incident. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), when the allegations broke, Florida State’s football team was ranked toward the top of the polls and ultimately won the 2013 National Championship, leading to speculation that the University either covered up Winston’s culpability or hid its head in the sand.

Acquaintance rape is one of the most common forms of campus violence, and is a focal point of Syntrio’s prevention of campus violence course, as well as its higher education harassment prevention courses for employees and management. Indeed, acquaintance rape is especially dangerous because it is often under reported. All too many women are victimized when things go too far, and educating men and women as to the need for explicit consent prior to engaging in sexual activity is crucial to prevention of sexually violent crimes.

Syntrio developed its prevention of campus violence and campus harassment courses with the sensitive nature of the topics discussed in mind. Indeed, the goal of all of our campus programs is to reduce the incidence of campus violence while maintaining compliance with the various state and federal laws. We can help train your students, faculty, and upper management to identify the risks and signs of sexually violent behavior and lead to a more positive campus community.

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