THE HONORABLE DEBORAH J. DANIELS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS
86TH ANNUAL MEETING OF THE
AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EDUCATION
PREVENTING VIOLENT CRIME ON CAMPUS
TUESDAY, MARCH 2, 2004
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA
Good morning! I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this distinguished panel. Preventing violent crime on campus is critical for the future of our nation's institutions of higher education.
Although we would like to think of our colleges and universities as temples of learning, safe from violence and the dangers of the world, we know that, in reality, these institutions often face many of the same challenges as their surrounding communities. Clearly, violent crime is one such challenge.
According to Justice Department data, more than half a million violent crimes are committed against college students each year. Though colleges are not immune from any form of violence, including murder, national studies consistently show that college women, in particular, face a high risk of sexual victimization.
Even at our nation's military academies, where discipline is paramount, female cadets have come forward to report sexual abuse. I was recently appointed to a Department of Defense Task Force that is meeting to determine how we can best address allegations of sexual abuse in our military academies and develop policies and procedures to sanction offenders, and better assist victims - but ultimately, with the goal of preventing sexual assault altogether.
A survey by the National Center for Victims of Crime found that 25 percent of all female college students surveyed were victims of rape or attempted rape. In most cases, these women are assaulted by fellow students. A study of sexual victimization of college women by our National Institute of Justice found that 35 percent of rapists were fellow classmates of the victim, 34 percent were friends, and 23 percent were boyfriends or former boyfriends. Slightly more than one in eight college women is stalked by a fellow student during an academic year.
Another study found that sorority women experienced a significantly higher incidence of rape than the general population of college women. Almost half of these assaults took place at a fraternity house.
These crimes have a devastating impact on victims. Almost one-third of all rape victims develop rape-related post-traumatic stress disorder. Victims of campus sexual assault report experiencing fear, depression, loss of control, problems sleeping and eating, a lack of concentration, and general disruption in their personal and academic lives.
The problem for victims of sexual assault on campus can be particularly acute because students who have been raped often attend the same classes or live in the same dormitories as their assailants. They are haunted by the constant threat of encountering the perpetrator, which can inhibit their ability to put the rape behind them, feel safe, and fully engage in their own healing process.
An institution's response to the problem of violence on campus is important in helping victims attain justice and recover from their assault. A quick, decisive response also assures the broader community that you take violence seriously and have a plan of action in place to address allegations of criminal behavior.
But, just as critically, presidents, chancellors, provosts, and other university officials can play a personal leadership role in creating a safer campus environment:-- By making a violence-free campus a priority.
Your actions - and your attitude - can set the tone for the entire campus - one that espouses dignity for all and makes clear that violence in any form will not be tolerated. If your approach is strong and credible, you should be able actually to deter future attacks, making your campus known as a safe place for your young charges to learn.
For the last several years, the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women has been working with college and university officials to prevent violent crime on campuses, to strengthen victim services, and to improve strategies for investigating and prosecuting campus crime.
One of our programs, called Grants to Reduce Violent Crimes Against Women on Campus, makes awards to individual colleges and universities, as well as schools that work together through a consortium, to address the problem of violent crimes against women. The grants help schools develop a coordinated response that links campus initiatives with local criminal justice agencies and service providers in the community. Last year, the programs supported with our grant funding served more than 2,500 victims on campuses throughout the country.
These programs have made great strides in increasing awareness and reporting of violent crime on individual campuses. For example, at the University of California at Davis, our grant funding has enabled the Campus Violence Prevention Program to improve and expand its services.
During the last two years, the number of victims served by the UC-Davis program has increased by 130 percent. A campus-wide survey found that, since the program's expansion, 73 percent of the student body is aware of resources for victims of violence. The survey also found significant changes in student attitudes regarding campus violence, including increased concern for issues regarding violence against women.
I want to forewarn you that this kind of increased awareness does lead to an increase in reporting of crime on campus. At Idaho State University, the number of students who answered yes when asked if they reported sexual victimization to police increased by 22 percent after its campus program increased violence against women efforts. And the University of South Carolina experienced a 71 percent increase in reporting in the three years following receipt of their federal grant.
But this increased reporting is not evidence of an increasing occurrence of violence. Rather, it is a direct result of a growing belief on the part of students that, if they report an incident, they will be helped, rather than further humiliated. And isn't it far better to have students come forward and get help rather than keeping these crimes in the closet -- and letting victims continue to suffer the physical and emotional consequences of violence?
I see the reporting issue as just another challenge for your awareness efforts. You can make clear that a lower reporting rate does not necessarily mean less crime - that in fact, higher numbers reflect that the system is working, and that students trust your institution's policies and procedures enough to come forward.
Raising awareness of campus violence should be part of a comprehensive initiative that includes education to inform the entire university about the problem and available resources, collaboration with victim service providers - both on-campus and in the community-- and adoption of a sexual assault and dating violence protocol that spells out proscribed conduct and sets forth a standardized system for responding to allegations of an offense.
I want to point out that these efforts do not require a huge investment of either money or personnel. It takes only a little effort, and often very little money, to raise awareness and to institute policy changes. For example, you can incorporate violence awareness into new student orientation, faculty and staff training, and the curricula of appropriate courses.
Many colleges and universities already have such comprehensive efforts in place to address the problem of underage drinking by students. Most schools today have instituted no tolerance policies for underage drinking. We must be no less vigilant against violence. Moreover, as my co-presenters will tell you, alcohol and drugs are major factors in campus violence.
Our goal for these efforts should be to prevent violent crime not only by changing behavior, but also by changing attitudes.
In a survey by the National Center for Victims of Crime, more than 30 percent of the male college students surveyed admitted using force or emotional pressure to obtain sex. That's almost a third!
One initiative that's showing positive results in changing both behavior and attitudes among men is the Mentors in Violence Prevention - or MVP - program. MVP was developed in 1993 at Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society by Jackson Katz, a former professional football player, who also happens to hold a degree in women's studies.
The goal of MVP is to motivate student athletes and leaders to work together with other students to prevent gender violence. The program uses visualization techniques and a "playbook" of strategies students can use to intervene in abusive behavior by their peers.
For example, in one playbook scenario, MVP participants are asked to consider what they would do if they came across a couple arguing in a school hallway. The argument escalates when the young man shoves his girlfriend into an open locker. Program participants then discuss the scenario and options for intervening in and defusing the situation.
This bystander approach to prevention empowers men to confront abusive peers. And it reduces the defensiveness men often feel when discussing violence against women. I encourage you to learn more about MVP. Information on the program is available on the Internet, at www.sportinsociety.org.
As Mr. Steinbach mentioned earlier, the Office of Justice Programs will sponsor a national summit this summer that will highlight these and other successful campus crime prevention strategies. The summit is designed to provide college and university presidents and chancellors with a forum that focuses on the issue of violent crime as it affects campuses and students.
By the end of the summit, it is our hope that participants will:-- first, have developed a better sense of how to respond to violent crime on campus;
We also hope the summit will result in a set of recommendations on what more can be done to prevent violent crime on campus and to respond appropriately to these offenses.
To help us plan a summit that is tailored to the specific needs of our institutions of higher education, and that focuses on the issues you consider most relevant to incidents of violent crime, I ask that you complete the survey form included in the packet of materials you have received.
The survey asks you to identify your preference, on a scale of one to five, on a range of issues that arise in connection with violent crime victimization of your students. Then, please return your completed forms to my staff as you exit the room.
Before I turn the program over to our next panelist, I want to thank all of you for your interest in this critical issue. I look forward to working with you and other university officials throughout the country to prevent violent crime on campus and to ensure the safety of our nation's college students. Thank you.