Thank you for your Apr. 25 editorial on sexual assault. The more attention brought to the issue, the better. However, the editorial does not accurately reflect Duke’s efforts to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct. Even a cursory reading of the results of the recent Student Experiences Survey shows that sexual assault on campus IS “complex and systemic,” with prevention therefore requiring a multi-faceted approach. Contrary to the editorial’s assertion that our initiatives burden the victim, programs such as PACT, Haven, Haven Plus, Party Monitor, Let’s Talk Consent, 50 Shades of…an Unhealthy Relationship, and It’s Your Move, educate students about the importance of consent, bystander intervention, and healthy relationships.
But these are quibbles. As the editorial notes, the results of the survey show that considerable work remains to reduce incidents of sexual misconduct. While several strategies (including bystander intervention) have been shown to be effective in improving knowledge and changing beliefs, only three have been proven to be effective in reducing the number of incidents—and two of these are at the middle school level.
How, then, should we decide what additional efforts we should take? Through research. Duke is participating in a grant to adapt one of those middle school programs, focusing on female students of color—including the student voices called for by your editorial. We are working with Duke’s Center for Advanced Hindsight to develop interventions geared specifically to the first 90 days of school, when a disproportionate number of assaults occur. To be implemented in August, it will be rigorously assessed to determine if it is effective in reducing prevalence. We are developing a university-wide awareness campaign and educational strategies specifically geared towards men.
We welcome the efforts of students to promote conversation. Me Too Monologues and We Are Here Duke present the student perspective and complement the administration’s efforts. We hope the Chronicle will continue to raise awareness about sexual misconduct in a positive and nuanced way.
Howie Kallem is the Title IX Coordinator in Duke University Office for Institutional Equity.