Safety and Justice for All: Inside the Action Alliance’s Unique New Resource to Address Campus Gender-Based Violence


All college students have the right to learn and live in an educational environment where they are safe and treated equally. This is the overarching spirit of federal and state legislation governing campus gender-based violence response. It is also a core belief of the Action Alliance. The presence of sexual violence, dating/domestic violence, and stalking threatens this right. Institutional and societal oppressions compound the negative effects of violence on students of color and other marginalized groups.

Over the past 5 years, the Action Alliance has consistently heard from Virginia campuses that they need more resources to effectively address the complex maze of campus gender-based violence regulations. Community Sexual and Domestic Violence Agencies (SDVAs) have said they want to effectively support student survivors and work with campuses on prevention initiatives, but do not always have access to the campus-specific information or resources to do so. Based on these conversations, Action Alliance staff members and I began work on a resource to fulfill those needs. We focused on three specific areas: institution-wide trauma-informed responses, racial justice oriented systems and responses, and concrete examples of institutions that had implemented successful policies and programs.


Safety and Justice for All: Best Practices for Virginia Campuses Addressing Gender-Based Violence is the culmination of this work. As there are already numerous best practices guides and model policies available, we wanted to make a unique contribution to existing resources. Our guide specifically focuses on addressing gender-based violence in trauma-informed and racial justice oriented ways. It is also one of the few guides that includes concrete examples of how institutions and organizations have implemented recommendations. The examples are critical because they help campus and community professionals begin conversations on how to implement the recommendations in their own context.


We created two versions of Safety and Justice for All; one general version and one specific to community colleges. The structure of the guides is the same and essence of the recommendations are the same; however, the community college edition addresses the unique context of community colleges. We adapted the wording of several recommendations to address community-college specific concerns and also utilized community college examples whenever possible. To our knowledge, this is the only gender-based violence best practice guide specific to community colleges.

In both guides, we present key recommendations for six groups: administrators; advocates; faculty and other instructional employees; Title IX coordinators and campus disciplinary professionals; campus law enforcement and security officers; and prevention specialists. The guides include information for both campus and community SDVA professionals and highlight the importance of dynamic and mutually beneficial partnerships between campuses and community SDVAs.

Examples for Prevention Specialists-lower res.jpgWhile we designed the guides specifically for Virginia, we believe they can also be useful for campus and community agencies in any state. We hope you find these guides helpful and that they inspire you to keep working for change. Together, we can make sure there is truly safety and justice for all students on our campuses and in our communities.

Jen Underwood wrote Safety and Justice for All: Best Practices for Addressing Campus Gender-Based Violence. She is a campus gender-based violence consultant and is also a PhD student at Virginia Commonwealth University studying campus gender-based violence prevention.


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

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Just Released: Our 2016 General Assembly Crossover Report


Many of the Action Alliance legislative priorities have crossed over, including:
–comprehensive statewide protocols for physical evidence collection (PERKs);
–strengthening laws on age of consent to marry;
–prohibiting firearm possession when subject to a “permanent” Protective Order;
–ensuring fair and equal treatment in housing and employment, and;
–strengthening/clarifying responses to campus sexual assault.


Several potentially very harmful bills that we strongly oppose have also crossed over, such as:
–circumventing existing concealed weapons protocols that could potentially add more firearms to volatile domestic violence situations, which evidence links with greater risks for lethality, and;
–policies that endorse discrimination and erode/block access to economic security, safety, and equality for LGBTQ communities.

Find full details in our 2016 General Assembly Crossover Report.

There’s still time to make an impact on legislation, whether you support or oppose.
Reach out to your representatives and let them know what you think! Find your legislators here.

Kristine Hall is the Policy Director of the Action Alliance. 


Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call804.377.0335

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email

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


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.


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