Thursday, September 20, 2018

Redefining campus sanctions for sexual misconduct as a strategy for prevention

By Alison Hall (Executive Director, Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR) at, Julie Evans (Director of Prevention& Victim Response, PAAR) at & Julie Patrick (National Partners Liaison, RALIANCE at

The continued prevalence of sexual misconduct on college campuses requires sanctioning models that address current offending behavior while working to prevent future offenses.  If we truly want to engage students who are causing the harm we need innovative strategies to connect them with the needed services and prevention programs. This requires a collaborative response inclusive of key players from universities, sex offender treatment, and victim services.

Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR) brought together victim services, colleges and sex offender treatment professionals to examine sanctioning practices at three Allegheny County, Pennsylvania universities.  The team reviewed best practices in sex offender treatment and developed recommendations for training to assist universities in accessing a variety of accountability options.

What’s in a sanction?

The first step of the project was to review current sexual misconduct, Title IX responses, interventions, remedies for victims and sanctions for respondents found responsible for sexual misconduct. Existing sanctions lacked the key elements needed for campus safety - building prosocial skills with the goal of changing behaviors. Rather than intervene and change behaviors sanctions ranged from watching an online video to expulsion with no options along the continuum. Ultimately, college conduct boards lack the necessary tools and expertise to promote safer campuses.

College conduct boards were not asking behavioral questions which would identify risk and protective factors such as: how does the respondent view the person harmed, how does the respondent view the behavior? These are the questions ATSA members are utilizing in their work with offenders.


Sanctions must address current behavior and intervene to promote behavior change. Campuses need a tool to comprehensively look at the whole student, risk and protective factors and developing specific interventions and sanctions to promote safer campuses and prevention of sexual misconduct. This requires campuses to collaborate with sex offender treatment providers. Additionally, any sex offender treatment provider working with a college should follow ATSA’s standards.

What’s next?

PAAR is grateful for support for support from RALIANCE, a national partnership among leaders in the prevention of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse. Founded in 2015 through a multimillion-dollar seed investment by the National Football League, RALIANCE is dedicated to ending sexual violence in one generation and supports an impact grant program with a specific funding category to prevent primary perpetration. 

PAAR is actively seeking additional funding to move into the next phase: development of a tool that utilizes a holistic approach to identifying and working with risk and protective factors.

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