USDOJ Announces New Website Addressing Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking on Campus
Reflections by Harlan I. Ettinger, Esq.
Last week the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) announced a new initiative, The Center for Changing Our Campus Culture, and website (www.changingourcampus.org), that the USDOJ press release describes as a “a comprehensive online clearinghouse on sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking on campus.” The website aims to provide “…information, materials and resources for campus administrators, faculty and staff, as well as campus and community law enforcement, victim service providers, students, parents and other key stakeholders to use to improve campus safety.”
Content accessible through the website is a product of collaboration among the USDOJ, U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Major content categories are:
Reducing the incidents of sexual assault, domestic/dating violence and stalking experienced by members of the college community.
An effective response to sexual assault, domestic/dating violence and stalking is essential to creating a comprehensive campus program.
The latest research, training opportunities, connecting with an OVW Campus Technical Assistance providers, the last blogs, webinars and podcasts.
The website has radio buttons for quick access to Legal/Policy documents, media resources, and Where to Get Help with links to victim resources such as the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), chat at online.rainn.org, and website www.rainn.org.
Two documents featured on www.changingourcampus.org that can be downloaded from the site are “A Guide to Safety Planning with Victims of Campus Sexual Violence” and “Drafting, Implementing, and Enforcing No Contact Orders for Sexual Violence Victims on College Campuses”, both of which were prepared by the Victim Rights Law Center (VRLC). Although these documents were produced as “a resource for administrators seeking to address sexual violence at higher education institutions across the country”, these documents can help people who have been victims of sexual violence on campus, and their loved ones, understand what their schools can and should be doing to help them regain a sense of physical and emotional safety.
As described by the VRLC, “A safety plan consists of practical strategies that help a victim assess situations that may be physically or emotionally dangerous and assists victims in developing strategies to respond if they feel unsafe.” “A Guide to Safety Planning with Victims of Campus Sexual Violence” points out there are important privacy/confidentiality concerns to sort out, and a wide array of things to be accounted for in making individual safety assessments before crafting plans that address each individual victim’s immediate physical safety, safety from tech based harassment and stalking, safety where they live and work, safety where they participate in extracurricular activities, and of course safety where they go to classes.
No Contact Orders (NCOs) are among the tools employed on campus to help keep victims safe. Each victim, each assailant and each campus is unique. “Drafting, Implementing, and Enforcing No Contact Orders for Sexual Violence Victims on College Campuses” identifies many of the issues that must be addressed to make NCOs effective. Although raised in the context of off-campus contact, the VRLC recommends discussing “Civil Protection Orders” available in your jurisdiction.
On June 26, 2015, the New Jersey Legislature unanimously passed the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015. This legislation, which authorizes the courts to grant protection to victims of certain nonconsensual sexual conduct who do not otherwise qualify for consideration under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, awaits the signature of Governor Chris Christie. Look for a detailed discussion of this legislation in a future “Reflection.”
Please contact the Simon Law Group if you or a loved one needs help understanding what schools can and must do to meet their obligations under Title IX to take steps to eliminate sexual harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.
The journey from “victim” to “survivor” begins with the first step.