In April 2011, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights released a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), which clarified that “sexual harassment of students, which includes acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX” (U.S. Department of Education, 2011, para. 1). Shortly after the release of the DCL, the government and many institutions of higher education in the U.S. dedicated ample time and energy to campus sexual assault (CSA) prevention policies, procedures, and programs. Over the past 10 years, hundreds of colleges and universities have aimed to comply with federal guidelines that concern CSA prevention. In 2002, prior to the DCL, 58% of higher education institutions offered some type of prevention programming for students (Karjane et al., 2002). In 2016, 91% of higher education institutions offered some sort of mandatory training to first-year students and staff (Tombros, Korman et al., 2017).
Although efforts to prevent CSA have increased, it remains unknown if prevention programs reduce incidents of sexual assault. While some scholars suggest that prevention programs reduce, in the short term, rape supportive attitudes associated with sexual assault, these attitudinal measures do not necessarily prove that programs prevent, or lead to a decline in CSA (Breitenbecher, 2000; Gray et al., 2017). Even with the past several years of increased prevention guidelines and institutional efforts, the one in four undergraduate cisgender women in the U.S. will experience CSA remains (Cantor et al., 2019). Students with multiple minoritized identities, such as Native American women and trans women, continue to experience CSA at even higher rates (Cantor et al., 2019; Griner et al., 2017). Because CSA remains endemic to higher education, policy makers, scholars, and practitioners continue to assess and investigate prevention in hopes of carving “a productive path forward in the fight against campus sexual violence” (Gray et al., 2017, vii).
This study focused on the experience of 44 Women of Color undergraduate student survivors’ perceptions of campus sexual assault prevention programming. Participants held perceptions concerning online training prior to college, the in-person presentations they attended during new student orientation, and the lack of information relayed through prevention programs about sexual assault perpetration. Findings highlight the need for continued research investigating the standpoints of Women of Color students to better inform implementation of prevention efforts.
(The expanded abstract is excerpted and adapted from the article cited above).