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Combatting Sexual Assault

Friday, May 1, 2015

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Good Morning:

Sexual assault is one of the most troubling issues facing university communities. It is a crime that devastates victims and shatters the notion of the university as a safe and nurturing haven for learning, growth and discovery. It can leave all of us feeling powerless.

That is why I was grateful to attend the inspiring talk delivered on campus this week by Mark Medina, a former Marine who now works with victims and survivors of sexual violence. Mark spoke passionately and convincingly about the power and responsibility all of us have to prevent sexual assault.

This is the idea behind One Wave, a year-old initiative that is training hundreds of Tulane students to become active bystanders and speak up or intervene when they notice a potential high-risk situation involving one of their peers. One Wave Bystanders include elected student representatives, student opinion leaders, fraternity presidents, student-athletes and others. With more training underway, the number of One Wave Bystanders is growing.

Our university has taken an active role in many other ways to prevent and respond to instances of sexual misconduct on our campus and is looking to take more proactive steps. We don't pretend to have all the answers. Our greatest source of ideas, passion, wisdom and expertise lies with you – the people of the Tulane community.  I urge you to send me your ideas on how we can enhance the steps we have taken to prevent sexual assault and improve the services we provide.

Below is a brief overview of initiatives we have taken so far. Please let me know what more we can and should be doing.

We have augmented officer training for TUPD that includes how to conduct trauma-informed interviews that elicit better information from victims and help them feel supported by law enforcement.

We have expanded the size and training of our Office of Student Conduct to ensure that it is employing the best practices in investigating allegations of sexual assault, stalking and dating violence. We are dedicating more staff members and resources to help sexual assault survivors recover through Student Resources and Support Services, as well as more staff to help with prevention efforts out of the Center for Wellness and Health Promotion (theWELL).

We are conducting a university-wide climate survey to measure the prevalence of sexual assault, gauge students' attitudes toward sexual aggression and determine the effectiveness of our support services and resources.

Additionally, we have formed the Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Committee, a team of senior-level administrators, faculty, staff and students working together to prevent sexual violence and foster a campus environment where all feel safe, informed and well-positioned to thrive.

We continue to offer options for reporting incidents of sexual violence and for connecting to support and assistance.  Our Title IX Coordinator oversees Tulane’s compliance with federal and state regulations and works to ensure that Tulane’s campus is one where violence and harmful behavior is not tolerated.  Tulane community members may reach out to our Title IX Coordinator by contacting the Office of Institutional Equity to report an incident or receive more information. Additionally, reports can be filed online at tulane.edu/concerns.  

Victims and survivors can receive assistance through Counseling and Psychological Services, which provides individual and group counseling, SAPHE, a 24-hour peer-run support hotline, and the Office of Victim Support Services, which provides support and advocacy services to victims of crime.

During the sexual assault awareness month of April, students attended discussions, presentations, films, plays, protests and other events aimed at bringing attention to the issue of sexual violence. I applaud our students for their efforts and pledge, with your help, to ensure that Tulane is a community that looks out for one another and does not tolerate violence of any kind against its own.

Signature of Mike Fitts