University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill sophomore Landen Gambill, center, stands with supporters during a rally. Gambill, who faces possible expulsion after saying publicly that she’s a rape victim, has filed a federal complaint against the school, saying it retaliated against her.
While a third of college students say they’ve done something to raise awareness around sexual assault, only 19% say they’ve worked to reform sexual assault policy on campus, survey results published this week show.
Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER), a New York-based organization that helps students organize to change policy at their campuses, published findings Monday from a nationwide survey examining what student activists are doing to reduce sexual assaults in the U.S.
Changing policy “leaves a legacy,” said Emily Greytak, author of the report. “Students may help to get a prevention program in place, those are great and important, but if it’s not in a policy, it can go away when the student graduates.”
Roughly half of those surveyed ranked their school with a “C” or lower in the way it addresses sexual assault but changes could come in the form of lobbying campus administrators and educating more students about sexual assault prevention, Greytak said. This includes targeting potential perpetrators — typically male students — with anti-rape messaging. In addition, universities should empower students to intervene if they feel something is wrong, Greytak said.
George Washington University economics senior Emily Rasowsky, founder of GW Students Against Sexual Assault, worked with administrators at her campus to reform the school’s sexual assault policy.
“There were administrators who cared about the issues and wanted students to take it up and run with it,” she said. “There really wasn’t a strong policy around. It was very bare-bones; I can’t even tell you exactly what it was.”
Real change comes when colleges have clear, transparent policies that students easily understand when they arrive on campus as freshmen, Greytak said
“These are failures at the schools that are institutional failures,” Greytak said. “As more lawsuits are being filed and being successful, I think schools themselves will wake up and see how important a good policy is.”
SAFER released the study at the beginning of April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Coincidentally, Greytak said, it also falls against the backdrop of universities struggling nationwide with criticism over sexual assault responses .
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