Monday, September 22, 2014

To curb sexual assault, 'It's on us'


Colorado State University has joined the White House — and universities around the country — in a major campaign to better address sexual assault on college campuses: the "It's On Us" campaign.

As a parent and as a university president, I celebrate this move to heighten awareness and send a powerful, unified message that sexual assault has no place in a learning community — or any community. This has long been a priority for Colorado State University. We've spent the last several years reframing the way the university — students, faculty and staff — think about and talk about and respond to sexual assault, recognizing that all of us hold the power to prevent sexual assault.

Feeling safe is fundamental to the life and integrity of our campus. CSU's work to prevent sexual assaults is guided by that, and a few other, core truths: One in four women, as well as one in six men and one in two transgender individuals, experience sexual violence in their lifetime. People of all genders can be perpetrators or survivors. The only person who can prevent a sexual assault is the person who commits the assault. Everyone has a role in prevention. Virtually all sexual assaults in our campus community - up to 97 percent — are committed by people the survivor knows and trusts.
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CSU tackles the tough topic of sexual assault, sexual violence and relationship violence — any sexual contact without consent — through campus collaboration, education, and not shying away from difficult issues and conversations. Our extensive web of educational efforts, training, and response addresses all angles of prevention and support and, while there are too many efforts to share here, it's important to note that Colorado State's commitment is a national model in many respects.

We teach and encourage people how to intervene when they see someone else in a situation that may not be right. We focus on prevention through education, teaching students that it is their responsibility to obtain clear consent, that signals to slow down are a "no," not a "yes," and that consent can be withdrawn at any time. As an institution, we embrace an expectation that it's the "us" that makes a difference in so many difficult situations; that there is power in the collective act of Rams taking care of each other, and Rams taking action.

With this broad approach, which also includes personal protection classes, a focus on campus safety and shattering harmful myths about sexual assault, it may surprise you to know that one key university focus is our emphasis on increasing the number of sexual assaults reported on campus. We focus on increasing reports, while working to decrease the number of sexual assaults that occur on campus and in our community. We provide dozens of trainings to employees from across campus on how to support survivors who confide in them, and how to appropriately report assaults. Because of these efforts, a high rate of sexual assaults (including assaults from years ago and miles away) are reported to campus officials, increasing our numbers to a mark higher than many other institutions. We're proud of this number, because reports identify patterns and provide important information, empowering us to find ways to increase the odds that we can reduce sexual assaults on campus.

When the devastation of a sexual assault does occur on our campus, our victim advocates respond 24/7, and a team of university services comes together to confidentially support the survivor. CSU police officers are trained to provide a compassionate and effective response to reports, and to pursue perpetrators. The university and CSUPD strive to take action to hold individuals accountable for their actions.

The White House charge to get involved in addressing sexual assault and violence on our campus is one we've already fully embraced, and we're proud to be a partner in this nationwide endeavor. We hope you'll join "us" in our commitment to preventing sexual assault. It's on us.

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