Indiana University is ramping up its efforts to combat sexual assault on campus through a new Student Welfare Initiative announced last week.
National statistics show one in five women is sexually assaulted during college.
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama announced a special task force, committed to helping change that staggering statistic.
And, he encouraged universities to take a more active role.
So, as IU students head back to campus, they’ll be greeted by thousands of posters highlighting sexual assault.
According to IU police, there were 27 forcible sex offenses in 2012, the last year for which data is available.
Emily Springston, the university’s Student Welfare Compliance Coordinator, says more education will help reduce that number.
“That’s an area we know we can constantly improve through research,” Springston said. “A big part of this welfare initiative will be focusing on our faculty who do research in this area and learning from them, along with our student affairs professionals, to understand what sorts of messages work for our students, how we can engage our students in tackling these issues for themselves.”
IU is also launching a streamlined website, where students can find information about sexual assault and campus resources all in one place. The website will launch later this month.
Springston says the university also plans to reach out to certain subsets of the student population, such as international students, athletes and those in the Greek system.
“The nice thing is we’ve never treated any of these students differently through our processes,” she said. “They’re all subject to the same processes and enjoy the same resources. But, we have seen higher incident rates across the country with these groups.”
IU worked with some of those students while developing the educational components of the Student Welfare Initiative.
University Trustee Philip Eskew says that will help make the program successful.
“It’s not going to be successful unless people buy into it,” Eskew said. “But, I think the student leadership are behind this. They’ve been involved in the creation of this. So, if you have students leading the initiative and educating other students, I think it will spread.”
Eskew is asking the university to update trustees on the progress of the initiative every six months.
IU is considering conducting a campus climate survey to gauge student perceptions of sexual assault and the success of the initiative.