In order to appropriately address sexual violence on college campuses, institutions must approach the issue from multiple angles, as indicated by the New Jersey Task Force on Campus Sexual Assault in a report released today.
The 39-page report, “Addressing Campus Sexual Violence: Creating Safer Higher Education Communities,” was released today during a press conference at the State House and contains key recommendations addressing the following issues:
· Early Education;
· Campus Climate Surveys;
· Services for the Survivor;
· Services for the Accused;
· Investigation and Adjudication;
· Coordinating with Community Agencies;
· Education and Training;
· Relationship between Substance Abuse and Sexual Assault.
Recommendations in the report reflect a strong need for campus climate surveys and encourage campus administrators to use the data they provide to create practical plans that reflect the culture and composition of each unique campus.
The report also reflects the need for campuses to clearly articulate their policies and procedures regarding reporting sexual assaults and the various legal rights and options available to survivors and the accused. It also emphasizes the importance of strengthening formal relationships with external organizations to expand the resources available on campus. Many of the concepts discussed in this report will likely make their way into drafted legislation to be considered by New Jersey legislature.
“I want to thank all of the task force members for their detailed and nuanced work over the past year. The impact of sexual violence can never be understated and they have done an excellent job of illustrating the physical as well as the emotional fallout that can haunt victims for a lifetime. The fact that sexual assault survivors have an attempted suicide rate 13 percent higher than the general population is a painfully poignant reminder of this. Equally alarming is the fact that victimization rates are much higher amongst members of the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender people, who are victimized at a rate of one out of every two. This is startling and underscores how much work we have ahead of us. The task force has provided us with a detailed blueprint to address this epidemic from a legislative stand point and I’m eager to get to work with my colleagues to ensure that our college campuses are a safe and welcoming place for students to flourish,” said Asw. Valerie Vanieri Huttle, who sponsored the legislation creating the Task Force.
“The reality is that no one single piece of legislation can isolate our campuses from the impact and prevalence of sexual violence,” said Patricia Teffenhart, co-chair of the Task Force, and executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “This report reflects the breadth of considerations that must be made if we wish to truly keep our campus communities as safe as possible. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but with the recommendations in this report, the Task Force is confident that New Jersey is heading in the right direction.”
“The first step to keeping our campus communities safe is to find out what is actually going on,” said Sarah McMahon, Ph.D., a member of the Task Force and Associate Director of the Center on Violence Against Women and Children at Rutgers University. “Experts acknowledge that Clery data shows a significant underreporting of sexual violence, nationally. Campus climate surveys, when conducted correctly and anonymously, are a much more accurate way to gauge the extent of the problem.”
“One in five women experience sexual violence on campuses across our country. This is an astounding statistic that demonstrates the seriousness of this issue and the critical need to ensure that our higher education institutions are equipped with the resources necessary to prevent sexual assault and assist survivors,” said Sen. Sandra Bolden Cunningham, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, and the Senate sponsor of the bill creating the Task Force. “I want to thank the members of the task force for their work to enhance the safety of students on campus. I look forward to working with the task force on what I believe must be an ongoing effort to create and implement policies that help safeguard students.”
“We all want reports of sexual violence to be taken seriously, and as such, we encourage campuses to ensure that all students understand what happens after sexual violence is reported,” said Anne Marie Bramnick, Esq., a member of the Task Force and an attorney at Bramnick, Rodriguez, Grabas, Arnold & Mangan, LLC. “Colleges and universities should be able to answer, ‘Who is a confidential resource for the survivor? What happens if a survivor reports to law enforcement? What does the accused do after being accused of sexual assault?’ Campuses that have thorough policies and procedures addressing these issues, among the other issues discussed in the report, can help reduce a student’s fear and anxiety during a traumatic time.”
ABOUT THE TASK FORCE:
The legislation authorizing the creation of the 12-member independent Task Force received bipartisan legislative support before being signed by Governor Christie in 2014. Experts on the Task Force represented the Secretary of Higher Education, the Attorney General, and the Director of the Division on Women in the Department of Children and Families. Five members appointed by the Governor included representatives of the State colleges and universities, the public research universities, the county colleges, the independent colleges and universities, and the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Four members of the public were appointed, including one person who is a campus sexual assault survivor. The President of the Senate, the Speaker of the General Assembly, the Minority Leader of the Senate, and the Minority Leader of the General Assembly each appointed one of the public members. Task force members met for one year. Recommendations were adopted unanimously.