Preventing Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence, and Stalking on Campus
Posted Oct 23, 2020
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the timing couldn’t be better: Otterbein University was recently awarded a $298,658 grant from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) to improve prevention education, awareness, and victim-survivor services in response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking (DVSAS) in the Otterbein community.
The statistics are startling: Research shows that sexual violence affects one in five female undergraduate students, as well as 6% of undergraduate men; and women ages 18 to 24 generally experience the highest rates of DVSAS.
We have been running programs to prevent and respond to sexual violence on campus, like Team Consent programming from the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Resources Center (WGSRC), and Fair Play programming for student-athletes. But we have always been aware that we can do more.
The OVW grant gives us the resources needed to truly shift the campus culture in how we both respond to and work to prevent DVSAS by working as a community. Together with the Westerville Police Department and the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO), Otterbein will create a Coordinated Community Response team (CCR).
To approach these issues from many different angles, the CCR will include representatives from Student Affairs, Human Resources (Title IX), the President’s Office, Otterbein Police, Academic Affairs, and more. The team will meet monthly to guide our program.
We have to overcome common problems, like the lack of awareness about DVSAS on campus and underreporting, through educational programming to a variety of student populations, including new/incoming students, Greeks, student-athletes, and more.
I know these types of programs work. In 2017-2018, I piloted the Fair Play program. While research shows that some male athletes may be at higher rates for perpetrating sexual assault, we know that the vast majority of athletes are good students who want to keep their fellow teammates, students, and community members safe. Fair Play teaches athletes to understand sexual assault, consent, and rape culture in sports, and gives them tools and skills to intervene and stop sexual violence before it happens.
Following the pilot program, participants reported having a better understanding of what constitutes consent, that sexual assault can happen to anyone, and how to identify and stop the spread of rape culture. Additionally, students reported increased knowledge and ability to engage in bystander intervention.
Our existing programs have been key first steps, but the OVW grant will allow us to expand our services and amplify our messages. I’m proud of the community support we’ve received from Westerville Police and SARNCO, as well our campus partners. By working together, we can make a greater impact.
Associate Professor Kristy McCray was the 2017 New Teacher of the Year at Otterbein. Her research focuses on sexual violence prevention in college sport. She formerly served as director of a rape crisis center.