2014 California Student Summit Report on Sexual Assault by CALCASA

On April 3 & 4, 2014, CALCASA brought together fifty students to share their experiences and develop recommendation for universities, colleges, legislators, funders and other stakeholders to meet the needs of students most effectively when addressing sexual violence.

Their perspectives and experiences created a forum of discussion that enlightened many of the participants on how to best handle sexual assault cases given many setbacks victims and survivors faced when reporting. This report publishes many of the discussions, suggestions, experiences, and thoughts expressed at the Student Summit Forum.

Click below to read the report.

The 3-pronged approach to addressing sexual violence on college campuses

In our work, over the last decade and a half, with universities and colleges, advocates and survivors, CALCASA has identified a 3-pronged approach to addressing sexual violence on college campuses. This approach can lead to more effective policies, responses and procedures when sexual violence occurs and can create a shift in cultural norms on campus that can prevent sexual violence before it begins. Click below to read the 3-pronged approach.

CALCASA 2014 Student Summit on Sexual Assault: Report and Recommendations

During the 2014 climate against the mishandling of sexual assault cases on university and college campuses, CALCASA responded by convening 50 students from different campuses in California to discuss their experiences towards developing recommendations for institutional change.

The 2014 Student Summit on Sexual Assault Report and Recommendation report culminates all the perspectives heard and discussed by those invited to the summit.

Click below to read the publication.

Colleges Attempt Improvements: Do Hasty Decisions Result in Quality and Thoughtful Changes?


It’s around that time of year where summer will soon fade and college classes will be back in session. While students are making sure they are registered for all the right courses, some institutions of higher education also want to be as prepared as possible before the school year begins by attempting to quickly establish reformed practices and policies addressing sexual violence.

However, is it really in the best interest of students to make hasty decisions and “improvements”? Understandably, making quick turnaround decisions is better for an institution’s reputation as “leaders” and to ensure federal compliance, but does this also guarantee that quality changes are being implemented?

According to the Boston Globe, Harvard’s undergraduate college has “a revamped policy” on campus sexual assault, created a centralized office to review reports of sexual assault, adopted the DOE’s recommended “preponderance of evidence standard” for adjudication, and replaced academic administrators a part of the adjudication process with staff experienced in investigating sexual assault.

USA Today also reported on Dartmouth’s Summit on Sexual Assault, where more than 60 colleges met to hear from federal officials, consult with national experts, and share strategies on how to improve handling cases of sexual violence.  Furthermore, the article states that Dartmouth in particular has made efforts to address the issue by creating procedures to investigate complaints, opening a sexual assault prevention center, and creating a committee that will provide a list of recommendations on next steps.

At first glance, many would praise colleges and universities like Harvard and Dartmouth for finally taking important measures to address campus sexual violence at an institutional level. Some might say that it is better to quickly take initiative and make instant improvements than none at all (especially if the college is under the microscope of the federal government and the public eye). However, it is significantly important for college administrators to pause and evaluate if they are sacrificing the safety of their campus community by making fast-paced “improvements” that could result in poorly revised changes that cause more harm than good. Instead, the campus community would most likely benefit if administrators are discussing and implementing changes under the guidance of and in collaboration with survivors, students, and survivor-centered community-based organizations. In fact, this should be the leadership style that school administrators practice because I believe people within the community know their needs -and assets- best.

Survivors, students, and the entire campus community deserve high-quality, intentional, and collaborative improvements that have been thoughtfully and strategically planned, organized, and implemented to sincerely promote a violence-free campus. A patient, methodical, and collaborative process is a key leadership approach in addressing campus sexual violence.

Post written by Fátima Avellán, Campus Project Associate at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA). Photo from USA Today. 

Campus Technical Assistance Newsletter

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A newsletter created by the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women’s Campus Technical Assistance and Resource Project  2nd issue, includes information on the research of security during study abroad, national awareness activities and events, technical assistance (TA) updates, and TA contacts. Click the link to view the newsletter for April 2014.

Guidelines to Developing Effective Prevention Programming

CALCASA blog post, 4 simple guidelines: A streamlined approach to developing effective prevention programmingcites valuable resources to develop successful prevention programs.  This tool can help re-focus program planning and development discussions.


Minimum Standards for Creating a Coordinated Community Response

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The Office of Violence Against Women (OVW), California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), and CALCASA’s National Campus Advisory Board developed guidelines and standards to implement a Coordinated Community Response Team.

This three page document emphasizes how the Violence Against Women Act of 2005 included a provision stating that grant funds could be used to “support improved coordination among campus administrators, campus security personnel, and local law enforcement to reduce domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking on campus”.

Read through these standards of CCR to guide schools in creating their own CCR teams based on the needs of their campus.

Community Centered Responses to Sexual Assault on College Campuses

In January, after the Council on Women and Girls released a report that focused on the experience of college women by announcing that 1 in 5 young women experienced sexual assault while attending college, President Obama assembled the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and tasked them with the exploration and examination of the problem of sexual assault on college campuses. Today, the White House Task Force released their report, outlining specific recommendations related to addressing and preventing sexual assault on college campuses. This, along with recent changes to the Violence Against Women Act to address sexual assault, dating violence and stalking on campus, survivor activism related to their schools responses, and significantly increased attention from the media and policy makers, has created a sea change in how we as a country are addressing this issue.

In our work, over the last decade and a half, with universities and colleges, advocates and survivors, CALCASA has identified a 3 Prong Approach to addressing sexual assault on college campuses. This approach can lead to more effective policies, responses and procedures when a sexual assault occurs and can create a shift in cultural norms on campus that can prevent sexual assault before it begins.

  • Survivor Centeredness: In an environment where almost everyone seems to want to answer the call to solve the problem of sexual assault on college campuses, that work must start with the needs of the survivor at the center. This approach requires universities, policy makers, advocates and others to pay attention to the varying needs of survivors and prevents a “one size fits all” approach. We often think of survivors having homogenous needs, but in fact, each survivor comes to their experience of sexual assault with varying community influences. By creating policies without a focus on the diverse needs of student survivors, we risk isolation or silencing those who come from traditionally marginalized communities. Additionally, developing strong policies regarding confidential resources are critical in a survivor-centered approach. Ensuring that the stories and experiences of survivors remain protected from disclosure, creates an environment where survivors are more likely to come forward to seek support and more willing to work with university officials to hold offenders accountable. Using this approach allows survivors to provide input into policy development and includes them in discussions related to the needs of the entire campus community
  • Community Collaboration and Engagement: Universities and colleges can be very insular and frequently survivors express fear about coming forward because they are worried about who might find out. The insular of nature of college communities can also contribute to a lack of willingness of bystanders, staff and faculty to “step in” or address systemic problems. We recommend that universities use an approach that engages the entire community in addressing and preventing sexual assault on college campuses. Systematic climate checks and partnerships between various campus programs and departments and community based resources are critical in ensuring access for survivors to much needed resources and increases the accountability of institutions to the community. Systematic climate checks that include a range of participants including students, faculty, staff, parents, and off campus community partners increase knowledge about the impact and existence of sexual assault on campus. And while community based resources may be more challenging to come by in some communities, they are necessary to effectively develop comprehensive and sustainable programs, and eliminate fears that may keep survivors and college community members from coming forward
  • Comprehensive Prevention: While it is tempting for universities to focus on “programs in a box” prevention, or one or another type of prevention strategy on campus, comprehensive prevention creates an environment on campus that has the potential to change campus norms that can support a culture where rape can thrive. No one prevention strategy can have the impact of a comprehensive approach. Comprehensive prevention requires a range of prevention strategies from effective campus policies and response, social norms change, bystander, gender equity, women’s empowerment, and promoting healthy masculinity. Comprehensive prevention includes strategies that address sexual violence before it happens (known as primary prevention) as well as address sexual violence after it takes place so it will not occur again. Comprehensive prevention on college campuses requires more than just providing information at orientation for incoming students. Prevention efforts must occur at various levels of the university from faculty to all levels of students, including transfer students, non-residential students, and graduate students. It is also critical that Comprehensive Prevention efforts saturate the campus community from curriculum development to student orientation and everywhere in between.

By ensuring that they use the above approach as a framework for designing responses, policies and prevention programs, universities and colleges can effectively design community specific models that work with and for their campus community.

What can you do today to address sexual assault on college campuses and make students safer on campus?

For Universities:

  • Reach out and explore existing community programs that can support your students who have experienced sexual assault.
  • Start a climate survey by beginning to JUST ASK students, faculty and community partners about the culture on campus related to sexual assault.

For Advocates:

  • Call your local university and discuss establishing or strengthening your relationships. Discuss how you can create more formal resources available to survivors.
  • Call local media and schedule an opportunity to interview about this issue. Media outlets need to be informed about how to report on this issue from a survivor perspective.

For Students:

  • Review your campus policies regarding sexual assault for a student/survivor focused tone. Tell your university what you find.
  • Become a partner with your university in creating more effective responses. Reach to your local rape crisis center to see what other ways you can become involved in your community and your university.

For assistance with how to incorporate these into the work that you do addressing sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking on campus please contact the CALCASA Campus Team at leona.smith@calcasa.orgsari.lipsett@calcasa.org or denice@calcasa.org .

 Written by Denice Labertew, CALCASA, Director of Advocacy and Campus Programs

Model Campus Stalking Policy

The Stalking Resource Center, a program of the National Center for Victims of Crime, partnered with the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) to publish this model campus policy on stalking. Numerous colleges and universities across the country contact the Stalking Resource Center each year, requesting assistance on how to address stalking on campuses. Along with requests for technical assistance, schools have asked for examples of stalking policies they could adapt and implement on their campuses. This document is a direct response to those inquiries.  

Campus Violence Prevention Resource Guides

Campus Violence Prevention Resource GuidesThe Campus Violence Prevention Resource Guides were developed by the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault in 2003, with funding from the Grants to Reduce Violent Crimes Against Women on Campus Program through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Violence Against Women Office. These guides are designed to help colleges and universities implement and maintain violence prevention educational programs and effective policies and procedures in response to violence against women on campus, including sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, and to improve campus services for victims and survivors of campus violence.

There are eleven guides total, of which there are ten audience-specific guides and one overview guide. Click on their titles below to download each guide.