What Makes A Better Sexual Assault Policy?

A good policy must meet the needs of your unique campus community. It is impossible to create a "perfect policy" that will fit every campus, but there are basic guidelines that should be met in constructing a workable and effective sexual assault policy.

  • Student Input: Students representing a diverse array of campus communities should have an officially recognized way of communicating their concerns about a policy to administrators, and an effective, democratic means of changing the policy if it does not suit their needs.
  • Accessibility: Policies should be easy to understand and use. Administrators should effectively publicize policies and ensure that students understand how they work.
  • Due Process: Disciplinary procedures should be standardized and consistently enforced. Procedures should include provisions protecting students wrongly accused of sexual assault and measures to ensure fair treatment of those who come forward with complaints of sexual assault.
  • Fairness: All services should be available to students regardless of gender, ethnic background, income, disability, identity, or sexual orientation. All disciplinary procedures should be fair and impartial.
  • Clear Language: Policies should be written in language that is easy for students to understand.  Sexual assault and consent should be clearly defined in a way that helps students assess their own behavior.  The policy should explicitly state that people of either sex and any sexual orientation can be sexually assaulted and can receive crisis services.
  • Oversight: Policies should have clear statements regarding who is responsible for making sure that all procedures are followed properly. No one carrying out a policy should have absolute authority, and students should have a clear, officially recognized way to ensure that policies are being carried out properly and effectively.
  • Prevention and Education: Policies should include meaningful efforts at education of students in the dynamics of sexual assault, the effects it has on survivors, and the many factors that allow it to continue. They should focus on preventing violence by perpetrators and engaging the whole school community in a stand against sexual violence. They should not blame victims, focus on women’s behavior, or repeat rape myths. These efforts should challenge sexism, homophobia, racism and other oppressions rather than reinforcing or ignoring them.
  • Crisis Intervention: Survivors should have crisis services available to them 24 hours a day, every day of the school year. Free emergency contraception, antibiotics, and post-exposure HIV prophylaxis should be available in school health centers.
  • Accessible and Accurate Reporting: Colleges should provide multiple options for reporting sexual assaults (confidential, anonymous, third-party) and actively encourage students to report. Colleges should make public accurate statistics about reports they have received.
  • Amnesty: Colleges should offer immunity from campus discipline for victims who were in violation of other school policies when assaulted (for example, for consuming alcohol or drugs).
  • Long Term Counseling: Colleges providing counseling services for students should provide survivors with access to unlimited free counseling.
  • Community Involvement: Colleges should be responsible to surrounding communities. Members of the community who are sexually assaulted by students or staff should receive any services offered by the college. Innocent community members should not be harassed or harmed in efforts to "protect" students.
  • Sexual Assault Response Training: All staff and faculty should be trained in how to respond to a student who reports a sexual assault to them, and staff members with direct responsibility for assisting survivors (campus police, health center staff, etc.) should have thorough training in current best practices.

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