ATIXA Executive Director Writes Open Letter to President Obama Regarding Campus Sexual Violence Task Force Considerations - abc27 WHTM

ATIXA Executive Director Writes Open Letter to President Obama Regarding Campus Sexual Violence Task Force Considerations

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MALVERN, Pa., Jan. 28, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Executive Director Brett A. Sokolow of The Association of Title IX Administrators writes an open letter to President Barack Obama with his recommendations for the recently announced campus sexual violence task force:

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140128/PH53288LOGO)

Brett A. Sokolow, Esq.
Executive Director,
The Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA)
Malvern, Pennsylvania

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear President Obama,

I've read very carefully your announcement of a task force on campus sexual violence and the memorandum you signed this week to authorize it.  It's good to know that this topic continues to be a priority for your administration. The goals seem, at first blush, sufficiently noble.  They include:

  1. Provide educational institutions with best practices for preventing and responding to rape and sexual assault.
  2. Build on the federal government's enforcement efforts to ensure that educational institutions comply fully with their legal obligations.
  3. Improve transparency of the government's enforcement activities.
  4. Increase the public's awareness of an institution's track record in addressing rape and sexual assault.
  5. Enhance coordination among federal agencies to hold schools accountable if they do not confront sexual violence on their campuses.

I'm sure the government officials you've appointed will call on subject matter experts so that the work of the task force is truly meaningful. As the task force seeks to learn what recommendations to make (in the brief 90 day window you have set out), I hope that some of these ideas might be among them:

  • Best practices for prevention and response need to be separate goals.  90% of campus resources expended on sexual violence are expended on response, with too little invested in prevention. So, on the prevention front, perhaps your task force might tell campus presidents that prevention - specifically primary prevention - can actually be effective at making sexual violence less frequent.  They aren't convinced of this, and the empirical support is weak, so they spend their few resources on response, for fear of being publicly slapped for non-compliance by the Office for Civil Rights.  It will be hard within 90 days to fund studies that will demonstrate what the prevention best practices are, and which are most effective in specific contexts, but I'd focus on applications of bystander engagement, social normative marketing, environmental management and engaging men as allies as some of the most promising.  Some campuses lack the will to tackle the prevention challenge, though most have sincere willingness and zero resources. Funding the research on what is effective will convince presidents that prevention is worth the investment, and they may more efficiently reallocate resources between prevention and response. The more we effectively prevent, the less we have to expend on response.  

  • Best practices for response are important to identify as well, but a list of practices is worthless without the appropriate training. Such training should: 1) ensure that those on the front lines of campus intake know how to provide a quality response that minimizes secondary and tertiary victimization, 2) provide the right information in a crisis, and 3) empower victims to make an informed choice about what is in their best interest.  Right now, campuses largely lack a culture of training, and are already bombarded with training mandates under Title IX and the newly enacted (by you, on March 7th, 2013) SaVE Act that they can't meet.  Campuses need well-staffed prevention and response offices, equipped to train thousands of students and employees on what to know, what to do, and who to tell.  Those mostly don't exist, so how will the messages of your task force actually be delivered?

Click here to read the full letter.

Very truly yours,

Brett A. Sokolow, Esq.
Executive Director

See also: The NCHERM Group and ATIXA Executive Summary of the White House Announcement and Report

Media Contact:
Marianne Price, M.S.
Director of Educational Programs

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