By Ramsey Champagne, MA, Amanda Ayers, MPH, and Ariana Gross

Campus cultures that are protective against sexual assault will happen when people—students, faculty, staff, and administrators—come together and actively work to make our campuses safer and more supportive to people of all identities, including survivors. This is hard and takes effort, but it is possible. We can start by becoming aware of and acknowledging the reality of sexual assault on college campuses, talking about it more openly, and strategically advocating for prevention efforts. A huge component of doing this involves becoming aware of intersectionality and the ways in which people living at the margins (e.g., LGBTQ+, people of color, undocumented students) are statistically more likely to experience both interpersonal violence and barriers to accessing supportive services. A good way to address this on campus is to ensure that members of marginalized communities have a visible administrator to whom they can bring concerns or issues.

Become a trauma-informed campus

Another key piece of creating cultures that are protective against sexual assault—and interpersonal violence across the board—is to create a campus culture that’s trauma-informed. Here are some essentials that create the foundation of a trauma-informed space:

  • Awareness of and attention to vicarious traumatization and its impact (essentially, how hearing about the trauma of others affects counselors and those listening to traumatic stories)
  • Commitment to transparency, predictability, and accessibility
  • A willingness to support the agency of the person who has experienced harm

Here are some resources that can help with the creation of a trauma-informed organization:

Trauma-informed care on a college campus: American College Health Association

Incorporating trauma-informed practice into professional curricula: The Philadelphia Project

Also, take a look at the Adverse Childhood Experiences study to understand the prevalence and impact of potentially trauma-inducing experiences.

At the end of the day, the responsibility for creating cultures where people are less likely to experience harm falls on all of us, all the time. We each have something to bring to the work, and our invitation for you is that you identify how you can most contribute to the culture that we are hoping to cocreate.