The Campus SaVE Act requires colleges and universities to provide comprehensive sexual assault and dating violence prevention education for all students, staff, and faculty.
While institution-led programming is critical for reaching everyone on campus, peer-led trainings are more effective at engaging students on a continuous basis. Work with Title IX and violence prevention specialists to begin a training initiative in which peer leaders educate members of student organizations and Greek life, athletes, and within residence halls.
Identify the department or official responsible for developing the prevention education program, and advocate for student involvement in the process via student committees, focus groups, or anonymous surveys. Consent education programs often take place during the first-year orientation, never to be revisited again. Work with student and faculty leaders to push for improved continuity and sustainability of these programs.
Title IX processes should be clear, transparent, and easily accessible for all survivors to navigate, but often are not. Consider creating infographics and videos for social media, flyers to hang up around campus, and/or a comprehensive online hub providing quick and easy-to-understand information that clarifies the school’s sexual assault reporting procedures and consolidates available resources for survivors.
Addressing Decision Makers
After identifying the needs on your campus, craft specific asks or demands that you would like to see your university fulfill, and name the key decision makers who can effect policy change.
A day of advocacy can help determine potential partners on and off campus, increase institutional transparency, grow student involvement, foster a working relationship with school administrators, and work towards policy change. Start your Advocacy Day with a training and strategy session where advocates decide main asks and talking points.
Create a petition outlining your main asks and circulate it throughout campus via word of mouth, on-campus promotion, and social media. In addition to text posts, consider using public Facebook events, infographic Instagram carousels, or making a concise video outlining your petition’s asks. Work with allied groups to amplify the petition and collect sign-ons. After garnering widespread public support and tangible signatures, deliver the petition to administration.
Similarly to a petition, a letter writing campaign can be a powerful way to show an outpouring of support for your issue. Coordinate a way to collect the letters and drop them off all together, or encourage supporters to email key decision makers. Consider involving alumni, who often hold power at the institution. Reach out to supportive alumni and ask them to mobilize their networks.
Organizing a Public Demonstration
Students all over the world participate in public demonstrations and national days of action to share stories, make a statement, represent the burden of violence, and raise campus awareness.
An international event that began in the 1970’s with the mission of ending sexual, relationship, and domestic violence in all forms. Student groups host TBTN events to raise awareness about sexual violence by inviting participants to organize rallies, marches, and vigils around campus in large numbers – thus reclaiming the community as their own.
On the last Wednesday of April, people are encouraged to wear jeans as part of an international movement protesting inaccurate and harmful attitudes about sexual assault. The show of solidarity comes from the women of the Italian Parliament who wore jeans to work the day after the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction because the survivor had worn tight jeans.
Leveraging Media Attention
Use social media, as well as school and local media outlets, strategically to raise public awareness of an issue and push for change. In all social media efforts, make sure to include content warnings.
Reserve a table on campus and ask passersby if they are comfortable taking a photo to show their support for survivors. Channel previous campaigns, like Project Unbreakable or Lasting Impact, or come up with your own concept to draw attention. Create a hashtag to promote the campaign across social media and compile all photos in one place.
Garner attention on campus and/or in the community by publishing in the student newspaper or a local publication. Emphasize survivor-centered needs and the importance of holding the institution accountable. Many feminist groups have found success by authoring op-eds with other student organizations or asking them to sign on in solidarity.
An essential part of engaging with the media is being able to clearly express your issue, its impact, and your proposed solution. Shorten your pitch to several sentences, highlighting exactly what you are working to accomplish, and practice your delivery as a group so that members can easily and comfortably give an interview or a quote when an opportunity arises.
Letters to the Editor are often selected for publishing based on volume and amount of support for an issue, so mobilizing a group of students to send as many as possible is an effective organizing tool. Coordinate an effort in which supporters each write a short letter (1-2 paragraphs) emphasizing the same talking points. This can be an effective way to engage membership and build relationships with new coalition partners.
Select a date and time when members and allies flood their social media accounts with survivor stories, statistics, and solutions. Use dynamic and compelling visuals and engage with this content (including hashtags and posts from partner organizations) from your student organization’s social channels to attract more attention.
Keep these points in mind when planning any action or event:
Be intentional about amplifying the voices of survivors. Be conscientious when organizing to ensure that the action represents a safe space for survivors to advocate on their own behalf.
Each campus has different challenges and gaps in providing critical resources. When organizing, your campaign should meet specific survivor-driven and student-driven needs. Examples of specific demands include: providing free and accessible Plan B in campus health centers for survivors, expanding staff resources for transgender and non-binary survivors, improving the quality of consent education offered, and demanding that Title IX processes be made clear, transparent, and easily accessible for all survivors to navigate.
There is often a lack of trust in reporting structures from people of color due to lack of support, finances, and/or resources; language or cultural barriers; and racism. A 2007 study found that college students perceived a black victim of sexual assault to be less believable and more responsible for her assault than a white victim. Marginalized groups with less access to resources historically are more vulnerable to sexual assault, and violent histories of police brutality, insufficient and neglectful healthcare, and institutional racism are barriers to reporting sexual assault, as they weaken trust in the system for many women of color.
Sexual violence disproportionately impacts lesbian, gay, bisexual, and TGQN students, yet frequently these voices are erased from conversations about gender-based violence. In 2015, the Association of American Universities found that 29.5% of respondents identifying as TGQN reported having been sexually assaulted while on campus. In this same study, 25.3% of all bisexual students surveyed reported experiencing sexual assault on campus, as well as 13.7% of gay and lesbian students and 18.6% of students identifying as asexual, questioning, or another sexual identity not listed.