Northern Illinois University today released the report of the Presidential Task Force on Violence Against Women Act, which contains policy and procedural recommendations that enhance NIU’s efforts in the prevention of sexual assault, provide support for sexual assault victims and survivors and strengthen policies and processes related to student conduct and reporting.
The task force was formed by NIU President Doug Baker as a proactive measure to recommit to creating safe, supportive living-learning communities by protecting all students from sexual assaults. Key recommendations contained in the report include improved collaboration with community partners and expanded communications and programming regarding sexual assault, prevention and survivor resources and services.
“I am thankful to the task force for their comprehensive review and recommendations, and several of the recommendations have already started to be implemented. I am especially impressed by the student leadership and involvement in this regard,” Baker said. “NIU has many resources available for sexual assault prevention and support, and by implementing the recommendations of the task force members, we hope to further strengthen our university culture.”
Task force representatives included NIU students, faculty, staff and administrators in addition to public safety officials, community members and others.
“The task force enabled a dedicated and passionate group of individuals from across campus and the community to work towards a common goal, and for the group to recognize the good work that is already being done on campus was fulfilling,” said NIU Vice President for Research and Innovation Partnerships Lesley Rigg, the task force co-chair. “The many programs and policies in place lay the foundation for the full potential of programs and services that were recommended by the various task force subcommittees. NIU has been a leader in such programs as bystander intervention, R.A.D. defense training and student education initiatives, and the work of the task force really highlighted this.”
Campus communication is already being expanded through involvement in the White House’s It’s on Us campaign, which advocates for students’ awareness of the national issue of, response to and prevention of campus sexual assaults. The NIU Student Association joined this effort in September, and public service announcements are airing on campus message boards and cable television channel in addition to at athletics events. The communications initiative involves students pledging to, among other things, create a campus “environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.”
NIU Student Association Vice President Raquel Chavez served on the task force, noting, “It’s important for students to be aware of all the sexual assault prevention and resources available at NIU. It’s our hope that the task force recommendations become a part of our campus culture. We’re using the It’s on Us campaign to help elevate that discussion.”
Recommended task force prevention initiatives include the following expanded education measures for students, faculty and staff:
- VAWA-specific education included in an expanded, two-day orientation for students;
- Student completion of online education modules;
- Completion of in-person prevention or risk-reduction experience such as R.A.D. training or bystander intervention education in first 18 months as a new student in addition to offering these training programs to graduate and law students;
- Inclusion of primary prevention, bystander intervention and awareness programming in UNIV 101/201 courses for students and new employee orientation; and
- Provide optional training for instructors to reduce victimization including student self-care, referrals and more.
Many policies regarding sexual assault have already been updated and are contained within NIU’s 2014 Annual Safety & Security Report. The report also contains many campus and community resources available to NIU students and staff in this regard. Prevention and response resources are listed on p. 42 and include the following:
- NIU’s Victim Advocacy Services
- NIU Health Services
- NIU Counseling & Student Development Center
- NIU Office of the Ombudsperson
- Employee Assistance Program
- NIU Psychological Services Center
- NIU Couple & Family Therapy Clinic
- Kishwaukee Community Hospital
- Safe Passage, DeKalb
- Ben Gordon Counseling Center
- Depression Crisis Hotline (630-482-9696)
- Suicide Hotline (800-784-2433)
The task force recommended conducting regular campus climate surveys to assess the prevalence and incidence of sexual assault on the NIU campus as well as gauge student attitudes toward and perceptions of campus climate with regard to sexual assault issues.
The task force also recommended strengthening community partnerships and streamlining services and referrals to on- and off-campus partners, including memorandums of understanding with partner organizations.
“This task force was a collaborative effort, not just on campus, but also with community partners, including representatives from the DeKalb Police Department and Safe Passage. The next phase is to look at the recommendations strategically and follow through on them,” said Vice President for Student Affairs & Enrollment Management Eric Weldy, who co-chaired the task force with Rigg.
The creative, insightful and pragmatic recommendations contained within the report, when enacted, may position NIU among the nation’s leaders using federal and community resources and tools to address the national problem of campus sexual assaults.