A part of the Violence Against Women Act — which passed through Congress Thursday — focusing on college campuses will require institutes of higher learning such as Boston University to adhere to new standards regarding sexual assault and sexual violence.
Under the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, university officials will have to provide victims of sexual violence with contact information for both health services and legal assistance. Campuses will have to report incidences of stalking and domestic violence in annual crime reports.
“Specific to college, it’s going to require universities to actually report their data on dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in their annual crime statistics and it’s going to require them to provide awareness programs for students and employees,” said Katherine Einstein, a BU political science professor.
First introduced by Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois in 2010, the campus-specific act has since been enveloped into the renewed Violence Against Women Act.
Einstein said the legislation is important because it not only addresses issues on college campuses but also has implications for Native Americans and members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
She said the act will likely spur change at BU, as well as similar universities across the U.S.
“Some of the things included in the law like offering students and employees who are victims of abuse a change in their work environment seems like a very good first step,” Einstein said.
Maureen Mahoney, director of BU’s Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center, said BU and many other universities have responded well to instances of violence against women.
“It’s prevalent worldwide, definitely, and a lot of colleges and universities have stepped up to the plate and are stepping up to the plate,” Mahoney said. “… That SARP exists demonstrates that this is something that people here take seriously.”
SARP, an around-the-clock campus resource, is available to all members of the BU community, Mahoney said.
“We also have initiatives to raise awareness about gender-based violence and intimate partner violence,” she said. “We’re working with — I don’t even know how many student organizations — to sponsor Sexual Assault Awareness week the first week of April.”
She said all student leaders and student athletes participate in special training. SARP also trains student groups, student employees and members of Residence Life.
Mahoney said SARP works one-on-one with students who have been victimized to discuss how to move forward.
“We inform students of what their options are and also the possible consequences of choosing or not choosing certain options,” she said. “None of us can foresee the future but some of the choices we make in life bring us to certain roads so that students can make really informed choices.”
BU spokesman Colin Riley said sexual violence and gender-based violence is a problem not unique to universities or to BU.
“It’s a societal issue, and domestic violence and sexual violence, dating violence, interpersonal violence and gender-based violence is a problem,” he said. “… I know parents have great love for their children and want the best for them and want to make sure they don’t get themselves into a situation.”
Riley said the SARP Center and BU’s bystander training programs are part of BU’s effort to take a stance against this type of violence.
“All those resources, we have, and it’s all through our wellness education,” Riley said. “If there are additional tools or guidelines, and best practices, we want to know it and we want to put those into place.”