Moving toward trauma-informed and social justice oriented approaches to ending campus gender-based violence

Jen Underwood, MSW

end-rape-culture for campus post-Jan 2016

CREDIT: CHASE CARTER VIA FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

All college students have the right to learn and live in an educational environment where they are safe and are treated equally; the presence of gender-based violence threatens that right. This is the fundamental concept behind campus gender-based violence legislation. While campus gender-based violence is not a new problem, student-survivor activism has spurred an increase in governmental oversight over the past several years. Through Title IX, the Clery Act, and the White House Task Force the federal government has taken a strong stance on the responsibility of colleges and universities to effectively respond to and prevent gender-based violence. At the state level, Governor McAuliffe created a campus sexual assault task force and the General Assembly passed new legislation regulating institutional response.

The national focus has inspired a number of improvements in how institutions respond to gender-based violence. Despite significant progress, though, reform has not been effective in all areas. The attention has almost solely focused on sexual violence, making dating/domestic violence and stalking secondary issues. Additionally, administrators have been so focused on complying with the detailed requirements related to response and adjudication that they have spent less time and resources on comprehensive prevention efforts. To truly eliminate gender-based violence on campus, survivors need to be supported, perpetrators need to be held accountable, and the campus culture needs to be changed so that it does not sustain oppression, discrimination, and violence of any kind.

The public attention may be focused on the “epidemic” of sexual violence on campus, but college students also experience dating/domestic violence and stalking at high rates.  Survivors of dating/domestic violence and stalking have the right to the same protections and services as survivors of sexual violence. Activist organizations such as Know Your IX are working to make sure institutions pay attention to all forms of gender-based violence.

Gender-based violence prevention does not get as much publicity as response, investigation, and adjudication, but it is also a requirement of Title IX and the Clery Act. Prevention, however, is often at the bottom of the priority list and viewed as a box to be checked off rather than a critical component of an institution’s overall response.  The Action Alliance and Virginia’s sexual and domestic violence agencies have a strong history of effective primary prevention work. Through projects like The Red Flag Campaign, they are helping campus professionals institute effective prevention programming.

The Action Alliance recognizes the road to culture change and federal compliance is difficult.  To help institutions achieve these important goals, the Action Alliance is developing a best practice guide that outlines trauma-informed and social justice oriented recommendations for campus gender-based violence. By focusing on trauma-informed systems and social justice oriented approaches, the Action Alliance seeks to fill a gap in existing resources. When published, this guide will help campus staff and local Sexual and Domestic Violence Agency staff institute changes that will meet both the letter and the spirit of the regulations.

Jen Underwood is an independent consultant who works to prevent campus gender-based violence.  She has over fifteen years of experience in advocacy, training, and prevention work.

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

Why Mandatory Testing of PERKs Matter

Kristine Hall – Policy Director

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…and why the conversation cannot stop there.

Victims may choose to have a special medical exam following a sexual assault to preserve possible evidence and receive medical care. This evidence, often called a “rape kit” is called a Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (P.E.R.K. in Virginia). There’s been increased attention on “rape kit” backlogs and the success that some states are having in identifying serial offenders when they tested kits that had not previously been submitted by law enforcement.

Recently, Virginia passed legislation to conduct an inventory of untested PERKs and found over 2,300 untested kits (End the Backlog). There are plans underway for processing the kits and creating recommendations to avoid future backlogs—including mandatory submission and testing policies. While these efforts are important, our work cannot stop here. PERKs are just one aspect of an investigation. These efforts alone will not restore faith in a system that has not served victims well and that many are reluctant to use.

We must thoroughly examine the beliefs and attitudes behind PERKs sitting on shelves and how they impact other aspects of an investigation. The inventory didn’t just uncover untested PERKs. It showed that our criminal justice system continues to fail—more often than not– when it comes to sexual violence!

I heard Carrie Hull with the Ashland Police Department once say “there is no such thing as a ‘he said, she said’ case. A ‘he said, she said’ case is a poor investigation.” I have thought about this statement and wondered how more effective our response would be if this sentiment was the core of our criminal justice systems’ policies and practices.

Kristine Hall is the Policy Director of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. She has been engaged in sexual and domestic violence victim advocacy, training, and policy for over 20 years.

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

 

Go-VaData!! A Sherrie Goggans Legacy Project

 

After 20 years on the staff at the coalition, Sherrie Goggans retired from the Action Alliance at the end of December 2015!! You are invited to honor Sherrie’s work by making a contribution to her Legacy Project: Go-VAdata!!! 

VAdata is Virginia’s premiere data collection system documenting the services provided by Sexual and Domestic Violence Agencies as well as the impact of those services. Twenty years ago Sherrie was hired to coordinate the development of a new data collection system because the system that was in place for domestic violence services was not Y2K compliant (remember Y2K?). Her leadership, curiosity and hard work resulted in Virginia establishing the first web-based sexual and domestic violence services data collection system in the nation. VAdata has continued to be an innovative system–one of the first statewide systems to meet federal confidentiality requirements, adaptable to a changing funding landscape and continuously evolving to meet the needs of SDVAs.

G0-VAdata is yet another innovation that will meet the needs of advocates “on the go.” Virginia’s amazing advocates seldom do their work at a desk–often, they are out in the community as they provide crisis intervention, advocacy and support.

Your contribution will make adapted versions of the data collection forms available to advocates from their cell phones, tablets and other mobile devices–making it super simple to document services that are provided in court, in the classroom, at the local community center, or even over a holiday meal!!

Please join us in wishing Sherrie well in her retirement and by honoring her work through a contribution before the end of 2015 toward the goal of $2,000 to make Go-VAdata a reality!!

Kristi VanAudenhove is the Executive Director of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. She has been a leader in coalition work, advocacy and policy for nearly 40 years. 

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org