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Originally published: 2013-08-29 16:49:18
Last modified: 2013-08-29 16:50:46

Interpersonal violence report released to ASU campus

by Anna Oakes

A year of work by an Interpersonal Violence Task Force at Appalachian State University culminated Tuesday with the release of the group's final report and recommendations to the campus community.

Chancellor Kenneth Peacock formed the task force in June 2012 to evaluate ASU's current and potential policies and programs for preventing sex-based harassment. The group also worked to satisfy the requirements of a resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights following a complaint by a female student about ASU's handling of a sexual assault complaint in 2011 and 2012.

"We appreciate the work of the Interpersonal Violence Task Force and look forward to continuing the important work they began," co-chairs J.J. Brown and Linda Foulsham said in the email releasing the report. "We all have a part to play in maintaining the safety of our community."

The task force report -- submitted to Peacock in late July -- includes eight recommendations for action. Peacock announced action on one recommendation -- the creation of an Interpersonal Violence Council to continue the task force's work -- at a faculty and staff meeting last week.

The task force also recommended the creation of at least two new staff positions to address the programming and support and outreach needs of students, faculty and staff.

"As we experienced in 2011-12, complicated cases require hundreds of hours of staff time and attention and easily overwhelm our current system. With recent changes in the interpretation and enforcement of Title IX, we only expect our caseload of interpersonal violence incidents to grow," the report said. "The university currently has no dedicated staff to provide sexual assault support or prevention."

The task force also recommends mandatory harassment and discrimination training for all students, faculty and staff; the development of a flow chart and checklist for addressing sexual assault complaints; specialized sexual assault training for at least one campus police officer; continued review and revision of the Code of Student Conduct and its Sexual Misconduct Addendum; and the provision of training and resources to ensure that comparable information and support is available to both complainants and respondents in student conduct cases.

In addition, the OCR has asked ASU to conduct the campus climate survey every two years.

"The chancellor has reviewed the report and is in conversations with his cabinet with regards to next steps," Brown said.

The task force was required to submit a report on its work to the OCR in April this year, which Watauga Democrat obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request. The report included the results of campus climate survey and summaries of the work of task force subcommittees on policy, programming and support and outreach.

The report released to the campus this week included these summaries as well as the eight final recommendations and conclusions derived from survey results.

More than 4,000 members of the campus community took the survey in early 2013. The task force designed the survey to assess knowledge of campus policies and resources related to sex-based discrimination, prevalence of rape myths and bystander attitudes, among other questions.

While 73.3 percent of respondents say they are aware of their rights under the university's policy on sex-based discrimination, 55.4 percent said they are unfamiliar with how to report incidents of sex-based discrimination. Forty-six percent said they are unfamiliar with how to report sexual harassment incidents and sexual misconduct, and 80 percent were unaware of ASU's Sexual Assault Prevention Office.

"This would suggest a need to better equip the campus community with these policies, their rights under these policies, and how to report violations of these policies," the report concluded.

The survey asked respondents questions relating to "rape myths," which it defines as commonly held beliefs or stereotypes about rape that are factually incorrect.

"Respondents did not generally endorse rape myths; however, sizable percentages still believe that 11 to 50 percent of women lie about rape, especially to cover up a pregnancy or provide an excuse for a sexually transmitted disease," the report stated. "The reality is that the false report rate for rape is around 2 to 4 percent, the same as for other crimes." The report suggested addressing the underpinnings of rape myths through campus prevention programs.