Reducing the Threat of Sexual Violence on NJ College Campuses
One in five women experience some form of sexual violence while in college. Sexual assault is repeatedly the most under-reported crime in the country. Survivors of sexual assault have an attempted suicide rate that's 13 percent higher than the general population.
Those alarming statistics, and more, accompany a 39-page report released Monday by the New Jersey Task Force on Campus Sexual Assault.
In an effort to help New Jersey chart a course towards safer campus communities, the task force — created by legislation signed into law in 2015 — issued recommendations related to nine areas:
- Early education
- Campus climate surveys
- Services for the survivor
- Services for the accused
- Investigation and adjudication
- Coordinating with community agencies
- Education and training
- Relationship between substance abuse and sexual assault
"We can not reduce or eliminate sexual violence on college campuses if we're not willing to do the hard work back in our homes and in our communities," said Patricia Teffenhart, co-chair of the task force and executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
The report notes that in nearly 85 percent of cases, the sexual assault victim knows their attacker. Ninety-one percent of victims are female.
"One of the messages that has come through loud and clear over the last few years is that institutions of higher education have a responsibility to support students who experience sexual assault, and that it is not acceptable to deny accountability, nor to sweep this issue under the rug anymore," said Sarah McMahon, a task force member and associate director of the Center on Violence Against Women and Children within the Rutgers School of Social Work.
The task force hopes state lawmakers and college administrators will read their report and use it as guidance.
"Some of it — campuses should be able to implement right away," Teffenhart said. "And some of it might come up to the legislature. They'll have to decide whether or not they'd like to strengthen some of the federal guidelines to help make New Jersey schools more accountable."
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, who sponsored the measure creating the task force, said she'd be working over the summer to create an additional task force to look at "changing the culture" long before college.
The current task force is set to expire 30 days after issuance of its report, the legislation states.