Campus Sexual Assaults: How Community Policing Can Make a Difference

College and university law enforcement can implement community outreach training programs, increase awareness, and foster ongoing working relationships with campus stakeholders and external organizations dedicated to preventing violence against women.


If Alcohol, Drugs Involved, Victims Afraid to Report
Because sexual assaults often occur when a victim has consumed alcohol and/or drugs, many students are reluctant to report these incidents because they fear criminal prosecution, administrative sanctions or parental notification. In addition, research indicates that college women are most vulnerable to sexual assaults in the first few weeks of their freshman and sophomore years. Students who are new to campus are less likely to report these types of incidents without a clear written policy and a firm understanding of the overall process and what to expect.

To encourage survivors to come forward, institutional policies should focus less on criminal or administrative sanctions related to alcohol or drug use. They should recognize that campus sexual assaults are a serious issue and focus on how the assault will be handled rather than the fact that alcohol or drugs were involved.

Many victims are not sure how to define rape or sexual assault, and this serves as another impediment to reporting incidents. Furthermore, the National Institute of Justice has revealed that victims are much less likely to report an assault to a campus official and are more likely to tell a friend. Defining sexual assault from the institutional level serves many purposes, but it also serves to assist with more accurate reporting procedures, increases prevention and enhances ­education efforts.

Department Policies, Procedures, Protocol Set Tone
An appropriate tone for the campus public safety department’s response is paramount. It is your department’s protocols and written policy that will guide your staff when (and how) they respond to reports of sexual assault. These are all decisions that should be clearly outlined in your department operations guide with training programs in place to support your policy.

  • Do your officers respond despite a victim’s wish to not have law enforcement or security present?
  • Who responds based on the situation, and what, if any, type of specialized training does your staff have around sexual assault survivors and college populations (and not just from an evidence or crime scene preservation standpoint)?
  • What kind of clothing does your staff wear when they respond to a sexual assault victim? Are hard uniforms, guns in plain view?
  • Do officers respond in plain (soft) clothes and with a demeanor that is comforting, confident, yet reassuring?

Sexual assault is one of the crimes that should set campus law enforcement and security professionals apart from more traditional police departments. Administrators and students want to know that campus law enforcement is hypersensitive to the challenges present and that department staff has the specialized training to be effective.

In order to address the rates of sexual assault on campus, police or security department training and staff need to work in tandem to provide superior services that remain student- and victim-oriented. Policies that support these efforts must also be in place.

Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century

This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!

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