An Epidemic of Sexual Assaults on College Campuses
Sexual assaults on university campuses has become a crisis of significant proportions in the United States. As a result, the issue has garnered attention from Washington lawmakers, the media and advocacy groups. A recent report issued by the Association of American Universities offered some disconcerting statistics to consider. The organization administered a survey involving students from 27 U.S. universities regarding their experiences with sexual violence and sexual misconduct. The survey included responses from over 150, 000 students and concluded that nineteen percent of undergraduate women reported some form of sexual assault while pursuing a degree. The student survey revealed that most of the sexual assaults were perpetrated by someone the victim knew; and that college rapists typically target victims who are under the influence of drugs, alcohol or are otherwise incapacitated. Unfortunately, the confluence of these circumstances often leads victims to be less inclined to report the assault and diminishes the chances that a rapist is legally prosecuted. Furthermore, the Annual Report to Congress on the activities of grantees receiving federal funds under the Grants to Reduce Violent Crimes Against Women on Campus Program shows that only 2% of incapacitated rapes are reported to law enforcement.
The US Senate is Taking Steps to Curtail Sexual Assaults on Campus
With nearly 1 in 5 women on college campuses victimized by sexual assault, a bipartisan group of 34 senators are now seeking additional legislation to hold schools accountable for how they handle sexual assault allegations and potentially reduce the violence that is devastating our college campuses. The legislation aims to improve accountability and transparency within colleges and universities by incorporating input from survivors, students, higher education institutions, advocate groups and law enforcement.
The Campus Accountability and Safety Act lists several measures to establish new campus resources and support services for students and survivors and ensure that college and university staff meet minimum training standards to address sexual assault cases. Additionally, the legislation seeks to improve transparency requirements by requiring colleges and universities to investigate all possible incidents and make public the results of annual student surveys. As a result, students, parents and officials are expected to benefit from a more accurate picture of the problem, and how campuses are specifically addressing it.
The proposed law would also establish enforceable Title IX penalties for Clery Act violations. Schools failing to comply with the outlined requirements can expect to be fined up to 1 percent of their overall operating budget. These penalties can easily translate to millions of dollars for many colleges and universities. These penalties are clearly designed to address schools that may not be inclined to fully investigate or report allegations due to financial or public relations consequences. The bill sponsored by Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., also would end the practice of school athletic departments from adjudicating campus rape cases involving athletes.
The Impact of Sexual Violence on Student Survivors
Sexual violence has serious consequences, including physical injury, depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety disorders and often leaves a victim’s life devastated and derails their educational pursuits. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2015) notes the following examples of the harmful and last consequences for a survivor of sexualized violence.
- Physical – bodily injury, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, chronic pain
- Psychological – anxiety, shame/guilt, depression, symptoms of PTSD
- Social – strained relationships, isolation, lower likelihood of marriage
- Health risk behaviors – high-risk sexual behavior, substance abuse
Accordingly, these individuals require specialized care that can assist them in attaining the physical and emotional support they need. When students disclose incidents of sexual violence to members of a campus community, these individuals must be equipped to respond with care and confidence while fulfilling applicable campus reporting requirements.
FONEMED’S POPULATION HEALTH MANAGEMENT SEXUAL VIOLENCE PROGRAM
Fonemed’s Sexual Assault Program offers personalized, confidential and supportive counseling to individuals who have experienced sexual violence. The program also assists academic facilities meet Department of Education requirements for prevention, management and reporting of sexual violence episodes on campus.
Fonemed’s Sexual Violence program was designed by Michael Weaver, MD, and is the Medical Director here at Fonemed. Dr. Weaver is a board-certified emergency medicine physician and was the Medical Director for St. Luke’s Hospital Level I Trauma Emergency Services in Kansas City for 17 years. In addition to emergency care, he is the Medical Director of the hospital’s Clinical Forensic Care Program (caring for Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Elderly and Child Abuse) and VP of Clinical Diversity. He lectures and teaches extensively on healthcare topics and is a Clinical Associate Professor in Emergency Medicine at the University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Medicine.
It is important to note that this program is customized for the College or University’s specific settings and requirements. It provides emotional and educative support in a safe, dignified, confidential and therapeutic environment. Students receive timely telehealth and medical forensic information including symptom based nurse advice, health information, appropriate jurisdictional information and institutional protocols that empower them to make informed decisions about their care options and actions. The College or University receives real time encounter reports to support their compliance with regulations.
If you would like to know more about how this program can work in conjunction with your school’s health center to improve quality of care and ensure compliance, we would like to hear from you. Contact us today!