Campus questions that cannot be ignored

This week, my youngest child becomes a college graduate. As I head back to her campus for the final time, I can’t help but be stunned at how the years have flown. I think back on the many, many campuses I have toured, and I remember the many questions parents asked such as,  “Is there a Hillel?” and “Will I receive a copy of their grades?” But almost no one asked about the blue lights scattered around the campus. Or whether there was any training around the dangerous combination of alcohol, drugs and sex. Or how the college administration handles charges of sexual assault.

Maybe we don’t ask because we don’t want to think about why there are so many emergency phone booths with blue strobe lights to call security. Sure, we’ve heard stories about incidents of dating violence, but that wouldn’t happen on this campus. That wouldn’t happen to my daughter.

But the thing is … it could. The statistics are frightening. More than one in five women will be the victim of attempted or completed sexual assault during her college years. What’s being done about it?

We can’t let one more student face assault. We can’t let one more young woman be told by administrators that she needs to accept her role in what happened to her. We need to expand Title IX so it includes domestic violence and stalking. We need to stop shrugging off incidents as simply poor decisions our children make that are just part of being in college and growing up. It’s time for us to step up and do something.

President Obama has responded recently by calling for transparency and responsibility with new and stronger requirements for colleges to report on dating violence and sexual assault. We applaud the administration for these landmark initiatives through the White House Task Force to Protect Students Against Sexual Assault.

Engaging men and boys as allies is the only way to turn the tide in what is an unqualified epidemic. This is why we, along with Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) fraternities and Sigma Delta Tau (SDT) sororities, created Safe Smart Dating, the first national program on dating abuse and sexual assault for the Greek community on college campuses. We were extremely proud that the program was recently awarded the prestigious Laurel Wreath for outstanding programming for the fraternal world from the North-American Interfraternity Conference.

Through a series of discussions, scenarios, news stories, live text surveys and video, we bring young men and women together to help them define and identify dating abuse and sexual assault as well as build skills to be active bystanders at school and in their communities. This past year we piloted the program at the University of Pennsylvania, Purdue University and George Washington University.

Programs such as ours help raise the level of conversation between young men and women on college campuses, but it’s just the beginning. Let’s not be afraid to ask how the school does training, how they handle complaints and how they report incidents on campus.

Lori Weinstein is the CEO of Jewish Women International, the leading Jewish women’s organization working to end violence against women, instill financial literacy and empower women and girls to become leaders. To learn more about Safe Smart Dating, go to jwi.org.

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