Thursday, July 11, 2019

ATSA’s Role in Addressing Campus Sexual Misconduct as an Opportunity for Prevention

By Joan Tabachnick Katie Gotch

Please note that this is a joint blog by the ATSA prevention and policy committees - Kieran 

Over the past ten years, the media and a growing advocacy movement have focused the public’s attention on campus sexual misconduct. Campuses throughout the world are facing this issue, and a growing number of countries are issuing guidelines that call on colleges and universities to improve the way they respond to and prevent sexual misconduct on campus. 

Advocates worldwide acknowledge that preventing sexual misconduct on college and university campuses requires comprehensive prevention strategies and policies for students, faculty, staff, and institutions.  A comprehensive prevention strategy includes providing services to all persons impacted by sexual harm – those who have been harmed, those who have caused harm, those at risk to cause harm, and the people connected to these individuals.

Given the importance of this issue, you may ask yourself: what could ATSA and its members provide in addressing campus sexual misconduct?  

We believe that ATSA has a unique lens and expertise in this growing conversation based upon our collective expertise and understanding of the perpetration and prevention of sexual misconduct.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has argued for the importance of this lens, stating that “a decrease in the number of actual and potential perpetrators in the population is necessary to achieve measurable reductions in the prevalence of sexual violence” (DeGue, Simon, Basile, Yee, Lan, & Spivak, 2012; DeGue, Valle, Holt, Massetti, Matjasko & Tharp, 2014).  Therefore, by incorporating the available knowledge and ATSA’s expertise on the assessment, treatment and prevention of abusive, illegal, or harmful sexual behaviors, a college or university’s ability to prevent and respond effectively to campus sexual misconduct will be strengthened. This includes what we know about effective interventions and protective factors for individuals who have committed some form of sexual harassment, misconduct, assault, or violence. 

To help articulate this point of view, ATSA’s Public Policy Committee and ATSA’s Prevention Committee joined together to develop a document outlining our contributions to this important conversation.  The document discusses the need to identify evidence-informed policies and practices that: 

hold individuals who perpetrate sexual assault accountable for their behavior; 

provide safety and support to individuals who have been harmed to facilitate healing; 

provide services for those who have caused harm with the resources necessary to stop their harmful behavior; and 

prevent sexual assault from happening in the first place.

The document additionally offers some key recommendations which are provided as suggestions to build a more effective response and prevention approach targeting the perpetration of sexual misconduct.  The recommendations include: 

connect with local expertise on the perpetration of sexual misconduct;

appropriately sanction and provide treatment to those who have caused sexual harm that is grounded in an individualized evidence-based approach; and

include perpetration prevention lens to existing prevention programs.

It is our hope that, by including the current knowledge regarding individuals who have sexually harmed with the emerging research and programs that show early and effective interventions can stop sexual misconduct, colleges and universities will be one step closer to achieving the important goal of preventing sexual misconduct. 

For more information, including additional resources on this important topic, check out the ATSA document: Addressing Campus Sexual Misconduct. It is a resource for all and we encourage you to share it widely!

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