It has always been Campus Safety magazine's goal to foster a community, both in print and online, of campus administrators, executives, security directors, emergency managers, police chiefs, and other campus public safety stakeholders who share best practices on our most troubling issues. We might not be able to address every challenge completely or perfectly, but at least we can attempt to address the aspects of the problem that we can control.
For example, with relationship/intimate partner violence, we can't change the culture of our campus or the community that surrounds our institution overnight. There is very little we can do about the fact that often our society as a whole blames the victims rather than the offenders (or doesn't believe the victims). Case in point: Chris Brown and Rihanna. This type of cultural insanity is incredibly difficult to overcome.
That being said, we can chip away at the problem of relationship violence by taking small, seemingly insignificant steps that, when combined, can do much to affect change not only in our departments, but also in our communities. We as individuals can become informed on the scope of the issue. We can train those we supervise how to spot the signs of abuse and appropriately respond to the report of an assault. We can go even further and encourage our peers in academia and medicine to conduct research and educate students and general staff about these issues. We can also begin to educate children, teens and young adults about healthy relationships.
I know in my heart of hearts there is so much we can do.
Imagine my frustration, then, when I encounter individuals who seem hell-bent on being part of the problem. They do this by insisting that it's better to have no program at all than to have one that doesn't address the huge, practically insurmountable challenge of culture.
With an attitude like this, campuses will never be able to address the problem of relationship/intimate partner violence. They will be too discouraged by the enormity of the task to even try.
Sure, we need to understand the role that culture plays in this issue. Of course we must remain humble in knowing we need to do much more research on methods of addressing domestic violence that work. But trying to tackle the huge problem of culture is like trying to drain an ocean to catch a fish. There must be other, smaller yet concrete steps we can take to tackle this challenge, which, in turn will positively affect our culture.
With other campus issues, like alcohol abuse, there are plenty of examples where taking small steps can achieve this. Take the University of Rhode Island, which had one of the highest rates of binge drinking in the nineties. Tactics like reducing access to alcohol at events helped to address the issue and eventually rubbed off on the university's culture. Couldn't small steps also help in combatting relationship violence, not to mention sexual assault and stalking?
There is no question that those of us attempting to address this problem will make some very big mistakes before we find the right solutions. That said, waiting to do something before we find the "perfect" solution that addresses every aspect of it — especially culture — is guaranteed to keep us from finding and implementing any solution.
That's why Campus Safety magazine is making our best effort to directly address the problems of stalking, child sexual abuse, domestic violence (in a future issue) and sexual assault (in a future issue). The solutions offered aren't perfect or complete, but they are the baby steps your organization can take to start.
With this in mind, I hope this series of articles will embolden you to let us know what steps work and don't work on your campuses.