Level Six: Influencing Policies and Legislation

Level 6: Influencing Policies and Legislation
Enacting laws and policies that support healthy community norms and a violence-free society

Much work has been done to create policies to address and end sexual assault on college campuses. Many policies address options for victims and response to acts of sexual violence. Strong policies ensure that victims have access to services, can take actions that protect their safety and promote recovery, and can seek justice through the campus discipline system. For example, survivors should be offered campus housing relocation following an assault. While these policies often focus on what happens after an assault, they are an important part of primary prevention because they establish a norm that sexual violence is not tolerated on campus and that perpetrators will face consequences for their actions. In addition, victim-centered policies show support for survivors, helping counteract a victim-blaming culture.

As policies are set in place and improved over time, consider incorporating specific language about prevention. For example, you can build support for prevention strategies by including language about promoting healthy relationships, consent, and pro-active bystander behavior. In addition, you can work to get the university to require all incoming students to receive sexual violence prevention education that focuses on those topics.

For examples of strong campus policies around sexual violence, visit the Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER) College Sexual Assault Policies Database (http://database.safercampus.org/drupal-5.5/). For more information about campus policymaking in general, visit our Campus Resource List.
Originally established in the early 1990s, the Campus Acquaintance Rape Education (CARE) program was initiated on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) campus after student activists pushed for formal sexual violence education. Students held rallies and planned extensive outreach efforts to fellow students to secure 3,000 signatures on a petition to set up school-sanctioned educational programs. As the student activists began working with the administration, the Counseling Center first offered to house the program. Later, the program was transferred to the Office of Women’s Programs, in part to maintain the feminist and grass-roots history of the work. In addition to general education programs that were available to a wide variety of student groups, the Office of Women's Programs began providing advocacy and support for students impacted by sexual assault, domestic violence, harassment, and stalking. In 1992, Women's Programs began teaching a course that trained students to be facilitators for CARE workshops, allowing more direct involvement by students as well as the capacity to provide more frequent and longer education programs to groups on campus.
In 1995, following the rape and murder of a staff member, students, faculty, and staff advocated for making the CARE program mandatory for first-year students. The mandatory workshop was developed by the Office of Women’s Programs in collaboration with the Student Health Center, the Counseling Center, University Police, the Office of Student Conflict Resolution, Housing, and other key partners. The two-hour program is offered in both single-sex and co-ed groups for 50-60 students at a time during the first semester of the first year. The Office of Women’s Programs staff works closely with student housing to host the programs in the dormitories, making it logistically possible to accommodate the roughly 7,000 incoming first-year students. Peer educators, trained through a semester-long class and paid for their time, conduct the workshops. The department that houses the peer education class also receives benefits from the arrangement, including student tuition money and a “free” adjunct instructor (a full-time sexual violence educator teaches the class, rather than a faculty member).

UIUC students were instrumental in ensuring that the mandatory program was started and that it has continued for 14 years. Staff members worked with administrators to design and implement programs after passionate, committed students had made their voices heard about the need for this program. The mandatory program continues to grow and change over time. Ross Wantland, former CARE program coordinator, says, “CARE provides a dialogue to counter the misinformation that exists about sexual violence on our campus. In this way, we can build a community that supports survivors of sexual violence and proactively works to end sexual violence on this campus. We all have a role in creating that change.”
For more information about the CARE program, visit http://studentaffairs.illinois.edu/diversity/women or call (217) 333-3137.