It has been a tremendous few months of activities, conversations and action regarding the prevention of sexual violence on American college campuses.
In January 2014, the White House Council on Women and Girls released a special report “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action” outlining best practices for prevention of violence and response with a specific focus on college campuses. The report tasked colleges to do better with their education and prevention programming, and to respond appropriately and with transparency to students’ complaints. The Circle of 6 mobile app was cited as a stand-out tool to prevent violence, by harnessing mobile technology to strengthen community and encourage bystander intervention.
Over the subsequent weeks following the report’s release, meetings were scheduled with students, activists, lawyers and survivors to brief the Vice President, members of Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Department of Education and the Department of Justice. Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor on Violence against Women, spearheaded the process. Pictured above, is the February kick-off meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, with student leaders and advocates from across the country. Once the cameras left, the Vice President and his advisors listened to each participant give recommendations about what policy, tools and programs students need, and what we want colleges to do.
In April, the Office of Science and Technology Policy hosted a “Data Jam” spearheaded by Vivian Graubard and Erie Meyer challenging activists and technologists to work with publicly available data. In informal teams and working with 103 data sets on the Clery Act, Title IX and more, we worked quickly to prototype mobile or web-based solutions to targeted problems. I presented new findings about Circle of 6 and conversations the app is sparking. Since the Data Jam some great ideas are now in development, including a men’s intervention tool and a college ranking app that includes sexual assault information.
Yesterday was the culmination of these efforts and the launch of the White House website NotAlone.gov. This new site is a compendium of resources, programs, data and maps for students to know their rights, for administrations to know their obligation to their students and for young people to find help. The Vice President gave a passionate speech denouncing rape and rape culture, calling out the need for verbal and affirmative consent, and charging young men to step up and intervene. Additionally, in an important clarification, the Department of Education announced that Title IX protects transgender students. We are thrilled that the collective efforts of so many brilliant bloggers and students put The Line Campaign on this comprehensive website.
As a survivor, filmmaker, advocate and app developer, I bring my opinions, personal experience and values to the work. “The Line” and this campaign is adamantly sex-positive, challenging victim-blaming and slut shaming, and the blog was founded, staffed and run by queer and diverse voices. “The Line” film has been shared with thousands of students across the country, and most recently hundreds of soldiers at Ft. Meade Army Base. The film and campaign continue to spark dialogue about consent and boundaries around the world. The mobile extension of this work, Circle of 6 is on now on 120,000 phones in 32 countries. Currently, we are partnering with colleges to customize Circle of 6 for their needs.
I’m deeply honored to work with great collaborators to push boundaries and create complex conversations about sexuality and human rights that inform discussions with students, administrators, the Department of Defense and the White House. Our leaders are following through on their promises, and putting the time, effort and energy into the health, well-being and rights of our students. For that, I am deeply grateful. We’re poised to see real cultural and behavioral change occur on college campuses, and eager to see the positive effects ripple into all of our communities.