The LiveSafe App is a great way to promote safety on college campuses. AIMEE FEUDA / THE SNAPPER
College campuses are designed to emulate what life looks like beyond graduation. For many students, an important part of the college experience is exploring boundaries and testing the limits before transitioning into the “real” world. However, there are times in college when those boundaries become blurry, confusing, or even nonexistent at times. Students may wonder how a university handles such sensitive matters.
One solution lies in creating a community of advocates. Millersville University is one example of an institution with an established system of diffused responsibility among students, faculty, campus police, and the Lancaster Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA).
Another major focus within the community is combating partner violence, stalking, and harassment. Defined by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which applies to any federally-funded institution, including Millersville University, actions like stalking fall under the umbrella term of sexual misconduct and should be reported.
“There sometimes is a misperception, for example, that sexual assault is about sex,” said Chief Pete Anders of the Millersville Campus Police Department. “It’s not necessarily about sex. It’s about dominating or exerting power over somebody else.”
This poses a challenge for students who experience power-based violence and seek to report it.
“With our department, we know from research that power-based violence is underreported,” said Anders. “We try to be really transparent with what our reporting process is.”
By coordinating efforts with the Title IX office, the campus police department offers an online resource, the Sexual Misconduct and Clery Reporting Form, which can be found on the Millersville website. This form allows students to anonymously report sexual misconduct with the option of identifying if they wish to receive investigative measures from the police, the Title IX office, or if they are unsure of their answer.
“In most cases of sexual assault of adults, the victim is still trying to figure out what they want to do,” said Anders.
The major difference between this reporting option which Millersville provides to their students, as opposed to a private institution, is that students who make reports receive support from internal departments of the university. A school without its own campus police may require an individual to go through processing with a local police department. This could impede someone’s decision to confide in a trusted resource.
While abuse does not discriminate, the rates of reporting partner violence do. Understanding this implication requires looking beyond campus life and bringing in external, justice-based resources, such as the YWCA of Lancaster.
“Not only is sexual violence something that is rooted in our society in terms of the way we view women, but also recognizing that the way we view white women and the way we view women of color subconsciously and the way they’re treated is very different,” said Danielle Harvey, a certified Affirmative Action professional and counselor for the Lancaster YWCA. “Most people don’t report sexual violence in general. Women of color are even less likely to report to the police than white women.”
Harvey is present on campus in the Cumberland House every Monday from 8:30AM-4:30PM as a resource for students and faculty.
“Basically, what we do is we cover two different levels of care,” said Harvey. “Therapy tends to be a more in-depth ongoing service. While crisis counseling can also be an in-depth and ongoing service, it can also just look like, ‘This just happened. I’m in this immediate place right now, rather than processing past traumas [in a therapy service].”
To create a network of community advocates, the YWCA, and the campus police department both manage Green Dot training for students seeking advocacy opportunities. Chief Anders is a facilitator of the training.
“What I like about the training is that it looks at collectively how do you change the culture that supports dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking,” said Anders. “The younger generation is much more advocacy-driven than the previous generation, particularly when it comes to certain things that involve making a change.”
The collective actions of students, faculty, campus police and local resources all support a change in a culture that may hopefully be maintained long after students graduate.