George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera released the final report from Mason’s Task Force on Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence yesterday, which included over 15 long-term and eight short-term recommendations for the university to best eradicate sexual violence.
Among the short-term recommendations to be implemented this August is the creation of a sexual assault and interpersonal violence leadership committee which will assess Mason’s progress in achieving the recommended goals. The task force also recommends that the campus community be notified of reported sexual assault incidents, “with appropriate exceptions.” The report advises for the hiring of a full time Title IX coordinator to assure adherence with the law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
“Taken together, these recommendations will ensure that Mason’s approach to sexual assault and interpersonal violence is comprehensive,” reads the report.
According to the report, Mason’s Wellness Alcohol and Drug and Violence Education (WAVES) office reported 77 cases of sexual assault and interpersonal violence in 2014. That same year, Mason Police reported 11 cases.
“Mason’s data generally aligns with national data related to reporting trends,” states the report. “Sexual assault is significantly under-reported to law enforcement.”
The short-term recommendations also include educating the campus community more about sexual assault, with an emphasis on faculty and staff. Part of this education is creating a website that will have policies and procedures relating to sexual assault and interpersonal violence.
“[The website will] ensure that all information be no more than two-clicks away from the main [Mason] site,” says the report, which also recommends a “Campus Climate” survey related to sexual assault and interpersonal violence. That survey would be released at the beginning of the 2016 academic year and continue annually.
The long-term recommendations from the Mason task force covered six major topic areas: policies, protocols and procedures; education and training; programs and services; curriculum; outreach and communication; and assessment.
The university plans to form a program similar to the “You Have Options” Law Enforcement Program, which allows sexual assault victims to have more control over the incident reporting process.
Under this program, victims decide how and to what extent they would like to report their sexual assault. The intent is to reduce barriers that make it difficult for sexual assault victims to report their assault, such as fear and pressure by others. The program works to catch serial perpetrators and is intended to help both the victim and law enforcement through a “victim centered and offender focused response to sexual violence.”
“Most victims choose not to report because they fear they will not be believed, they will be mistreated, their privacy will be violated, or they will not receive the resources they need,” according to the report.
A large part of the long-term recommendations is focused on educating the campus community on how to deal with issues of sexual assault including how to be a bystander and establishing a program similar to the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource’s Safe Zone training. This training would establish certain student, faculty or staff as a “safe person” with whom victims can report information to and the “safe person” can provide them with proper resources.
However, training will not just be a voluntary program like Safe Zone. The task force recommends campus-wide training to specific university groups of students, faculty and staff. There will also be educational programs to reach the LGBTQ, international and undocumented student populations.
The report stressed focus on integrating educational opportunities and training in all facets of university life from UNIV courses, orientation to creating a statement to be printed on university curriculum (i.e. syllabi).
The task force was comprised of faculty, staff and students who met seven times and was led by co-chairs Associate Provost Kimberly Eby and Vice-President for University Life Rose Pascarell. President Cabrera is also a member of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence, a statewide effort.
In an email to the university community, President Cabrera encouraged everyone to participate in stopping sexual assault and interpersonal violence by taking Mason’s Pledge to End Sexual Violence.
“I remain strongly committed to this issue,” wrote Cabrera. “It is one that deeply impacts the lives of so many of our students and their families.”