BSASV Response

Dear Brandeis Community:

We are grateful to the Brandeis students who have worked tirelessly to raise awareness about the issue of sexual violence on our campus and across the country. Below is a response to the list of needs and proposed changes recommended by members of B.SASV (Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence) and supported by over 2500 individuals who expressed support for these proposals through an online petition. Our response below constitutes a critical step in reiterating the commitments we have made to issues of sexual violence at Brandeis and a step forward in actualizing those commitments through concrete actions.  Highlights of the responses below include:

  • Creating a Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Specialist position, now filled by Sheila McMahon, and establishing a campus wide task force to address sexual violence
  • A commitment to establishing a rape crisis center and student counselor organization
  • Completing comprehensive new websites by the fall semester, as well as new guides for survivors, faculty and staff members
  • Increasing availability of trauma counselors in the Psychological Counseling Center
  • Providing  Emergency Contraception at no cost in the Health Center
  • Incorporating the “Speak About It” sexual violence and bystander training program to undergraduate student orientations
  • Launching bystander training initiatives across campus and establishing a men’s group to combat rape
  • Establishing new training for staff members and public safety
  • Enacting changes to party policies that will codify sexual assault awareness and policies for hosts of any such events

We invite all members of the Brandeis community to actively engage with one another on these issues and look forward to your participation as pro-social bystanders, student leaders, and advocates for change on this important social justice issue.  Following are the specific items listed in the online petition, with updates on University activities and responses to those items.

1.  Clear and accessible information on existing reporting paths, options, and resources

The Brandeis website on sexual assault services is in the process of being updated. A shell has been created by the Communications department and they are working with Sheila McMahon to draft the content. We welcome student, faculty, and staff feedback on the website as soon as the draft pages are available in the next few days. The updated website will go live before students attend orientation in August.

Reporting options, as well as the adjudication process, will be outlined in text and flow chart formats on the website that is being created. The draft flow charts may be found here: reporting options and adjudication process.

The new Survivor’s Guide will be modified for faculty, staff, and students so that each group knows the basics of reporting, on and off-campus resources, and who to contact for more help.

2.  A permanent on-call crisis response counselor

With our new Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Specialist and the dedicated students who have been providing support services to survivors on campus, a clear next step is to expand campus sexual assault crisis response services to a 24/7 model. To this end, with supervision from the Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Specialist, several students will be hired and trained as rape crisis advocates. This group of students and core staff will provide support for a larger network of volunteer advocates who may serve on an on-call basis throughout the academic year. This would include both phone response and in-person accompaniment to the hospital.

3.  An additional therapist on the Psychological Counseling Center staff who specifically specializes in sexual trauma, violence and assault for long-term counseling

Dr. Joy Von Steiger is a highly trained expert in the area of sexual trauma, violence and assault.  In addition to Dr. Von Steiger, the Psychological Counseling Center will add an additional therapist with expertise in treating trauma. This therapist will join the trauma treatment team in the PCC and begin seeing students in the fall.

4.  Proper training of university staff, faculty, and administrators on the roles and responsibilities of mandated reporters and/or responsible employees under Title IX

Currently, all new employees go through the HR New Employee Orientation program.  This half-day program includes review and awareness of the issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault.  The training covers information under the Campus SaVE act which has been incorporated in the program since March 2014. 

In addition, the Preventing Sexual Harassment/Campus SaVE training is delivered approximately 6 times during the academic year and summer months for faculty and management.  This training provides faculty and managers with information and resources on the topic of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The training covers reporting/Responsible Employee roles and the new mandates under the Campus SaVE Act. Campus SaVE information has been incorporated since March 2014.

The Sexual Assault Services Specialist and HR officers are finalizing a resource guide titled "Guidelines for Faculty and Staff: Helping Students Cope with Sexual Assault."  That document will be ready for publication very shortly.

The Dean of Students staff and HR officers attended the Train-the-Trainer program on Bystander Education and Awareness conducted from The University of New Hampshire that was cited in the White House report as a current best practice model.  In conjunction with the Dean of Students, the Human Resources office are prepared to roll-out this Bystander training for staff beginning in the fall. 

Also beginning this fall, the General Counsel, HR officers and the Sexual Assault Services & Prevention Specialist will provide training and awareness sessions at Faculty orientation sessions. 

5.  Pro-social bystander intervention, effective consent and healthy relationship workshops at Orientation and extensively offered throughout the entire school year

In March 2014, a core group of nearly 50 students attended a daylong train-the-trainer program with trainers from UNH’s Bringing in the Bystander program education team. These students will work in pairs to provide bystander education to Brandeis undergraduate students in the residence halls, to club leaders, and throughout the Brandeis community. If you know you would like bystander education training for your student club, organization, or floor, please fill out this form at your earliest convenience: SIGN US UP FOR BYSTANDER EDUCATION

The current plan for Orientation for First Year students includes the following:

  1. The Sexual Assault Services & Prevention Specialist will provide training for the Orientation Leaders (OLs), both to address their role as supportive peers and also to teach them how to debrief with their small groups after the theater performance at orientation.
  2. The theater performance will be led by “Speak About It” and will be followed by small group sessions during which OLs review definitions of sexual assault, consent, dating violence, stalking, sexual harassment, etc.; discuss campus resources (confidential and private but not confidential); and emphasize the importance of being pro-social bystanders.
  3. Subsequently, bystander intervention training will be offered to all Community Advisors as hall programs, particularly for first year students.

In addition, all club leaders will be offered bystander education training. There will be a conversation with the campus-wide committee (Task Force for Sexual Assault Response, Services, and Prevention) about whether we can mandate this type of training for club leaders.

In Athletics, the men’s teams are starting a men’s group. The Sexual Assault Services & Prevention Specialist has worked with one of the male coaches to host three planning meetings with Chris Gilbert, from the Offices of Sexual Assault Response at Harvard. We anticipate that group will meet regularly beginning in the fall. We are also working to see if we can provide a partial day orientation just for athletes who are first year students, since their schedules make it difficult to get to all of the regular orientation sessions. This athlete orientation would include a strong focus on sexual assault prevention.

6.  Specific sexual assault response training of Brandeis Public Safety officers

The Sexual Assault Investigative Team of Brandeis Public Safety will attend training this month with Delores Stafford and Associates (a professional consulting firm specializing in campus safety, campus security, and law enforcement issues on college campuses and universities) to hone investigative skills required for incidents of sexual assault. This team will then work with the Sexual Assault Services & Prevention Specialist and Human Resources to provide additional training for the other members of the Public Safety staff this academic year.

7.  An effective campus-wide campaign to combat rape culture

A campus-wide Task Force for Sexual Assault Response, Services, and Prevention is being established to build on the collaborative efforts of the Violence Against Women Act grant committee to work together with students on the committee and beyond to establish a public safety awareness campaign that will provide support options and promote pro-social bystander behavior. Research has shown that for social campaigns to be effective, they must take into account the campus culture and use language, data, and messaging that reflects the positive aspects of the culture. Therefore, we’ll need to conduct focus groups in the fall to shape the messages for the campaign on campus. Depending on the amount of time the focus groups will require, we hope that messaging will be ready to go out on campus in the spring semester next year.

8.   Awareness of non-abusive sexual behavior and list of resources as part of the party registration process

In accordance with the recommendations put forth by the members of B.SASV, the party registration process will require the contact information of the sober host to be clearly posted in the residence hall where the party is taking place so that party-goers will be aware of the on-site as emergency contact in case an unsafe situation arises. In addition, the contact information sheet will include information about what constitutes non-consensual sexual contact (including verbal contact, such as sexual harassment) with a reminder that such interactions are not tolerated in our community, along with offering relevant resources for concerned students.

9.   Safety networks for students.

Students have expressed interest in a customized app such as Circleof6 to serve as a tool to support students in keeping themselves safe on and off campus, particularly when they are walking home alone or with someone they don’t know very well. Brandeis administrators are very supportive of such a tool, and Brandeis is investigating the possibility of designing a cost effective in-house app that would serve a similar purpose.  In the meantime, the administration is also contacting the Student Union to consider whether a request from the Student Activities Fund should be made for this purpose.  

10.  Engaging broader campus resources

There are currently two standing committees dedicated to these issues on campus: the staff Title IX group, and the faculty UAC subcommittee on sexual violence. The groups share information, provide support for cases, and make policy recommendations. We understand the strong need for a coordinated campus effort on issues of sexual violence. Therefore, Provost Steve Goldstein and Senior Vice President Andrew Flagel have convened a campus-wide committee (mentioned above) that will start meeting in the fall semester in order to fulfill this critical need for a coalition on campus that supports coordinated efforts among student groups, staff, and faculty.

Sheila McMahon, the Sexual Assault Services & Prevention Specialist, is trained in crisis intervention with survivors and also in sexual assault prevention education training.

Emergency contraception (EC) is available at the Health Center, and it may be that information about those services needs to be more widely distributed. Under the restructured department of Health and Wellness, we are very glad to announce that EC will be available this year to students at no charge.

Dr. Michael LaFarr was recently named the Executive Director for Health and Wellness. In this capacity, he will work with the Sexual Assault Services & Prevention Specialist, the Psychological Counseling Center, and Health Services to ensure that our services are responsive to students’ needs.

In addition to campus resources, we have many fruitful relationships with partner organizations in the Boston area. For example, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) provides hotline services and free counseling for survivors. For legal support, we have wonderful resources through BARCC and the Victim Rights Law Center (VRLC) in Boston. The legal expertise provided by these agencies is an excellent resource for our students.

11.  A permanent campus rape crisis center

Temporary  space for a rape crisis services area will be designated in or adjacent to the new Gender and Sexuality Center, which is also currently connected to the office for the Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Specialist.  Realizing that these functions are very different, there is no intention to intertwine them, only to take advantage of an opportunity to make best use of available space.  This is especially important as we seek to find locations that are both highly visible to our community, and that offer discrete access for students in distress.  As we move forward with plans to look at space allocations across Usdan, it is very likely that these two critical resource centers will be separated.

The rape crisis center is currently projected to be staffed by student counselors, with coordination and advising from the Sexual Assault Prevention and Services Specialist.

In the upcoming academic year, we will launch a campus climate survey. In addition to providing us with helpful data about students’ perceptions about sexual violence on campus, this survey will allow us to ask questions about needs students have for support. These findings will provide additional support for future directions the rape crisis center may take.

Again, we deeply appreciate the thoughtfulness and advocacy of Brandeis students and look forward to continuing to work with students, and our entire community, to eliminate sexual violence on our campus. If you are a survivor, a friend, an activist, or just have questions about sexual assault prevention and intervention at Brandeis, please share your concerns with the Senior Vice President of Students & Enrollment, the Dean of Students Office, and the Sexual Assault Services & Prevention Specialist so that we may better support you. We will be looking for additional ways to reach out to students this year to ensure that we are continuing to build a community of care for all of our students.