SCOPE Thought Piece, Question #2: What have we learned to date in our prevention efforts that practitioners should know about?

Brett A. Sokolow, Esq.

I have learned the value of centralized prevention planning as contrasted with the scattershot efforts seen on some campuses.  Centralizing the planning process can allow your campus to program strategically with respect to timing, dosage, message and audience, and is a serious boon to the implementation of a four-year prevention strategy.  Centralized planning can help your campus to envision what topics are critical to this prevention strategy.  Surveys, CORE Drug and Alcohol Survey and National College Health Assessment data should inform this process.  Ask campus stakeholders to identify the areas of greatest problems.  Taking the example of surveying and data assessment for sexual violence, we might come up with a list of topics to address in programming, such as this example from one university’s survey:

  • Lack of victim empathy; victim-blaming
  • Feelings of invulnerability/NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard)
  • Absence of risk-reduction decisions
  • Misperception of norms around drunk sex
  • Students misinterpreting consent
  • Students who don’t know how to draw the line between seduction and coercion
  • Predation issues; characteristics of sexual aggressors
  • Rape drugs
  • Difference between stranger rape and known-offender assaults
  • Male defensiveness
  • Men’s fear of false accusations
  • Increasing false reports based on mental health concerns
  • How to help a victim
  • How to intervene in/avoid uncomfortable situations
  • Self-defense
  • Criminal prosecution of campus sexual assault
  • Male and female socialization and communication
  • Gendered assumptions of sexual entitlement/availability
  • Sexual respect and objectification

Surveys and data can give us a laundry list of themes and topics that we need to address over the four years of the curriculum.  Suppose this example above became our targeted topic list, and we decided that for the cohort of students who started college in 2012 and who were anticipated to graduate in 2016-17, we wanted each of them to be exposed to programming on each of these topics.  We’d then have to design intended outcomes for each, and ask how we can most effectively and strategically achieve those outcomes (that delivery mechanism piece is the area where many of the co-authors in this thought-piece are experts).  Try it with the list above, and see what specific 3-5 learning outcomes your committee would want to achieve for each topic.  Is there a priority order for the topics?  Is there a naturally progressive educational ordering? Perhaps it is as simple as starting with more basic concepts for first-year students (depending hopefully on data about where they are in terms of baseline knowledge, attitudes and behaviors), progressing to topics of greater sophistication in the second, third and fourth years of college (and assuming some might study abroad), using each program to build on the ones before it.

Now, envision doing this not just with sexual violence, but across all target areas of prevention.  While this may sound like good prevention strategy, and I think it is, your campus leaders will see in this a paradigm that is familiar to them – enterprise risk management — the systematic identification and addressing of areas of risk with a comprehensive plan.

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