Fighting Sexual Assault on Campus

Iowa Campus Compact member colleges and universities work to engage with off-campus communities to solve problems and meet needs. They are also working to address issues on campus and doing both in a way that creates learning opportunities for students. One critical example of this is the prevention of sexual assault, with campuses working to engage and empower students to lead change.

The Center for Violence Prevention at the University of Northern Iowa first started their Mentors in Violence Prevention Program in 1993 and seeks to empower both men and women as bystanders giving students the “tools to lead with concrete options to effect change in their peer cultures.” The program uses a nationally recognized model that build students skills as leaders and focuses on empathy and an understanding of culture that is transferable to many other situations.

A recent example represents a new trend in collaboration among campuses. The Central Iowa Colleges’ Coordinated Response is a new project funded by the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The project is a collaboration between Mercy College of Health Sciences, Drake University, Grand View University, and Simpson College. Working together will allow the campuses to provide a more consistent message to their students and build capacity for training. The schools will use the same Mentors in Violence Prevention training curriculum as the long-standing UNI program and at Mercy College, every student will receive the training in their orientation to campus.

Ending Violence at Iowa was launched by the University of Iowa in 2016 and also includes bystander training and roles for students in changing the behavior of their peers. Students can be trained as Peer Prevention Education Trainers and join one of the active student organizations on campus addresses these issues. The university, along with others, has also asked students to join take the pledge with the national “It’s On Us” campaign aimed at changing culture around sexual consent.

Studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of these bystander intervention and peer-led programs. These programs have been shown both to effectively reduce violence and to build student skills in ways that will help them be better members of their future communities and better advocates of safe and healthy workplaces in their careers.