Combating Gender-based Violence (GBV) through Social Justice on College Campuses as Led by CPSW

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — As the school year wraps up for summer, attention is being drawn to the issue of GBV on college campuses. GBV covers a wide range of misconduct—verbal and physical actions, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape, among other forms. For college women, sexual violence is more prevalent than other kinds of crimes. 25% of college women are sexually assaulted while in college; and 59% experienced harassing behavior.

In order to help combat GBV on college campuses, eGirl Power, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, has partnered with the Center for Public Safety in DC to create the Center of Public Safety for Women (CPSW).

Notably, the use of the word “violence” does not limit GBV solely to misconduct covered by criminal laws. For example, many sexual harassment cases are civil matters that do not implicate criminal statutes. But any GBV experience can have a traumatic effect on survivors—regardless of how that misconduct is categorized under applicable laws.

The start of the next school year will mark the beginning of the notorious “red zone” on college campuses, when 50% of campus sexual assaults occur between mid-August and late November. This has been recognized as due to fraternity and sorority rushes, and with freshmen students more impacted at a time when they are still developing their social networks.

It’s not just women who are affected. LGBTQ+ college students are also statistically more likely to be impacted by sexual violence, which affects more than: 25% of bisexual students, 18% of asexual, queer or questioning students, 15% of gay or lesbian students, and 22% for those who select more than one category. Heterosexual men are impacted by GBV too, but at much lower rates of 4-6%.

Title IX is a powerful tool for students who want to combat sexual violence on college campuses. Under Title IX, discrimination on the basis of sex can include sexual harassment, rape, and sexual assault, as well as other forms of gender-based discrimination. This landmark law prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs, and requires covered schools to respond to and investigate reports of such incidents on their campuses or facilities.

However, there is a wide chasm between what schools and students report. For example, in 2015, 89% of campuses reported zero rapes, but in that same year, other data indicated that approximately 23% of undergraduate women reported surviving rape or sexual assault.

Complicating matters, just 20% of female survivors in college report their assault to the police, compared with 32% of college-age women who are not students.

As affirmed by the U.S. Department of Education, “Due to underreporting… officially reported sexual assaults represented only a minority of sexual assaults that occurred.” In fact, government data collection suggests GBV incidents are on average less than 1%. Left to the official data, campus decision makers may likely think that there’s not that big of a problem. When in reality, underreporting masks the problem.

As stated by Gabbi, Chair of the #StopGBV Executive Team, “it is important to destigmatize the conversation about GBV in order to put an end to it.” To achieve these goals, the team is working to “Educate, Empower and Elevate college students to bring awareness and create change,” shared Hana, another #StopGBV Executive Team member who is helping to lead this effort.

To what degree is GBV an issue on your campus?

For any student who wants to understand more about GBV and how to fight against it, especially within the context of higher education, sign up for a free #StopGBV Webinar with CPSW.

Chris Lee