As proof of its continued commitment to sexual assault prevention and response, Stony Brook University was recently chosen by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to serve as one of the locations for its national campus tour that coincided with the April release of the report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault called “Not Alone.” The recommendations included launching NotAlone.gov, a website containing information for students, schools and anyone interested in finding resources on how to prevent and respond to sexual assault on college and university campuses and in our schools.
On Wednesday, April 30, Bea Hanson, principal deputy director of DOJ’s Office of Violence Against Women (OVW), visited the University — which was chosen as one of 11 examples nationally — to highlight best practices that are being implemented by DOJ-OVW grantees. Stony Brook’s Center for Prevention and Outreach (CPO) and the Program in Public Health have received competitive funding from DOJ-OVW since 2009 to support a comprehensive, victim-centered approach to sexual assault prevention and response. Hanson participated in several events held throughout the day on both sides of campus that detailed the University’s prevention programs. CPO and the Program in Public Health collaborated on the arrangements for Hanson’s visit through their joint initiative, SBU’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Project. Amy Hammock, assistant professor of Preventive Medicine and core faculty member in the Program in Public Health, and Smita Majumdar, assistant director of CPO, are co-directors of the project.
“It was wonderful to have an opportunity to show Dr. Hanson the hallmarks of our public health approach to sexual assault prevention and response,” said Hammock. Majumdar agreed, adding, “The DOJ-OVW funding has been instrumental in helping us to develop a truly coordinated community approach to addressing sexual violence, and we feel well-positioned to implement additional best practices moving forward.”
To begin her visit, Hanson delivered remarks at a panel discussion on “Stony Brook University Campus Sexual Violence Response Policies and Resources” for more than 60 students, faculty and staff, organized by CPO. The discussion, moderated by Christine Szaraz, CPO’s outreach and prevention counselor, featured key Stony Brook professionals describing how they provide medical, emotional, academic, judicial and legal services/response to victims of sexual assault. Among the panelists were Marjolie Leonard, interim director, Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action; Matty Orlich, director, Office of University Community Standards; Neil Farrell, assistant chief, University Police; Julian Pessier, interim director, Counseling and Psychological Services; Bob Ansbach, assistant director, Student Health Services; Richard Gatteau, associate provost for academic success; and Jane Specht, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, VIBS Family Violence and Rape Crisis Center.
The two-hour panel discussion was the culmination of an eight-hour certificate course on “Recognizing and Responding to Sexual and Relationship Violence on Campus.” The course examined definitions, prevalence, myths and facts, perpetrator characteristics, victim experience and barriers to reporting. Participants in the course were provided with strategies to promote intervention, and with information on referral to on- and off-campus resources as well as the role faculty and staff can play in creating a campus culture that does not condone violence in any form.
Later in the day, Hanson visited the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Center of Excellence at Stony Brook Medicine and learned how campus and community partners work together to provide confidential forensic exams for student victims of sexual assault. To conclude her visit, Hanson participated in a roundtable discussion with 27 partners, representing all facets of SBU’s coordinated community response. She congratulated the Stony Brook team for its leadership in addressing campus sexual assault.
Also in attendance at the day’s events was Melanie Sinesi ’13, regional assistant to U.S. Senator for New York Kirsten Gillibrand, representing Gillibrand’s commitment to combating campus sexual assault. Last week, Gillibrand and colleagues recommended, among a group of action items, that all schools be required to administer a standardized, anonymous survey on campus sexual assaults that would be published annually online, similar to the Department of Defense’s own SAPRO (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office) survey. “The price of a college education should never include a one in five chance of being sexually assaulted. I am pleased the Task Force recommended the important initial step of a mandatory survey, which has consistently been the number one request of student survivors and advocates. But for these reforms to have a lasting effect to keep our students safe, Congress needs to act,” said Gillibrand. “I will continue working with my colleagues to build a bipartisan coalition that will take legislative action mandating this survey among other much needed reforms.”
About Stony Brook’s Prevention and Response Programs
The University’s current practices incorporate many of the recent recommended best practices. For the past five years, annual student needs assessments have been conducted to determine the prevalence of sexual assault on campus, and the data gathered has allowed for the development of tailored interventions. An empirically based bystander intervention program is now being implemented, and various campus stakeholders have been trained in responding to student disclosures of sexual assault. Additionally, through grant support, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) in Stony Brook’s medical center have been trained to provide care specifically to college students and to transgender-identified victims.
Coordination among various campus and community stakeholders is key to the success of the campus grant initiative. The coordinated community response is supported by senior University leadership, including President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD; Peter Baigent, vice president for student affairs; and Kenneth Kaushansky, MD, MACP, dean of the School of Medicine and senior vice president for health sciences. On-campus partners include the University Police Department, Student Activities, University Community Standards, Athletics, Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Health Services, Academic Advising, Title IX and Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action, and Office of Student Affairs Planning and Staff Development. Community partners include VIBS Family Violence and Rape Crisis Center, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and the Suffolk County Police Department.
— Shelley Catalano, Amy Hammock and Smita Majumdar; photos by Arthur Fredericks