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April 30. 2014 10:59PM

White House drafts UNH to help lead initiative to curb sexual assaults on college campuses

DURHAM — This week, the White House named University of New Hampshire as one of three universities that will lead an initiative aimed at curbing sexual assault on campuses.

"We are seen as leaders in the effort to end violence against women, and the programs that have come out of Prevention Innovations have been proven to make a difference," said Jane Stapleton, co-director of UNH's Prevention Innovations.

Sharyn Potter, associate professor of sociology and Prevention Innovations' co-director, said UNH's Bringing in the Bystander in-person program offers 90-minute and four-hour programs.

"We set up scenarios where there is a potential for a sexual violence situation to occur, and we teach (students) how to safely intervene to distract or disrupt the situation," said Potter. "The Bystander program is really a community focus, giving the message that everyone has a responsibility to help end sexual violence on campus."

Potter said the Bystander program is used at more than 50 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and has been piloted for the U.S. Army in Europe.  The White House, which released its "Not Alone" report Tuesday, deemed UNH qualified to design and put in place a training program in cooperation with campus-based practitioners from around the country and the university's Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP).

Franklin Pierce University English professor Donna Decker, who runs the Women in Leadership Program at the Rindge college, said she plans to push the administration to implement the suggestions outlined in the White House report.

Educational institutions have been sweeping the issue under the carpet for years, she said, pointing to fines levied against universities for failing to adhere to the Clery Act, which requires colleges to report all campus crimes. Yale received a $165,000 penalty from the U.S. Department of Education in 2013 for failing to disclose four sexual assaults that occurred in 2001 and 2002, she said.

Decker was critical of Dartmouth College officials' reaction time after a student published a "rape guide" in January on an independent and privately hosted website, exclusive to those with a school email address, in which he described how to sexually assault a female student he identified by name and residence. That student, who informed the administration, said she was sexually assaulted at a fraternity party weeks later.

Amy Olson, Dartmouth College's senior media relations officer, said the administration took the issue seriously.

"As soon as the post was brought to the administration's attention, Dartmouth acted swiftly to support the student and an investigation was launched," she said. "As a result, the person who issued the post has been identified and will undergo the college disciplinary process."

She said the school plans to implement a new sexual assault policy in June and will hold a summit on sexual assault in July. A new Center for Community Action and Prevention, dedicated to the prevention of sexual assault and violence, is to open in the fall.

UNH and Dartmouth aren't the only Granite State institutions taking the "Not Alone" report seriously.

"We share the White House and the Office of Civil Rights' concerns about sexual violence on campuses, and will continue to ensure that New England College addresses these issues in proactive and meaningful ways," said Vice President for Academic Affairs Mark Watman.

Timothy Kershner, chief public relations officer at Plymouth State University, said student safety, especially in regard to sexual violence, is a top concern for administrators.

"We welcome these new guidelines and recommendations as additional tools to promote safety for students and others who are part of our campus community," he said.

Additional information is available at www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/report_0.pdf. Further details on UNH's Prevention Innovations may be obtained at cola.unh.edu/prevention-innovations.


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