New collaboration aims to improve campus sexual assault response and prevention

blogimage_SexualAssaultCollaborationWith one in five students experiencing sexual assault during college, a new partnership in California aims to enable law enforcement agencies and higher education institutions to better collaborate to improve campus sexual assault prevention and response.

University of California, Riverside President Janet Napolitano and California Attorney General Kamala Harris earlier this month unveiled a new set of tools and resources to improve collaboration and transparency among university administration and law enforcement agencies. “This model agreement will help break down silos between campuses and law enforcement agencies to provide sexual assault victims with the help they need and hold more perpetrators accountable,” Harris said.

“This model agreement will help break down silos between campuses and law enforcement agencies to provide sexual assault victims with the help they need and hold more perpetrators accountable.”

In addition to a host of resources, the toolkit includes a template memorandum of understanding (MOU) that can be adapted for use by higher education institutions in California and the local law enforcement agencies that have jurisdiction over those institutions, according to a UC, Riverside, press release on the initiative. Compellingly, the toolkit was developed by the California Attorney General’s Office through a multi-stakeholder consultation process that included UC’s Office of the President, other state colleges and universities, district attorney offices, police departments, and community organizations.

UC, Riverside, reports that the toolkit stems from “Napolitano’s and Harris’s strong, mutual sense that cooperation between higher education institutions and law enforcement could be further enhanced.” It aims to help partners understand and navigate the state and federal regulations related to information sharing and other forms of collaboration in addressing sexual assault on campus.

Commit to Information Sharing — one of the collaborative tactics articulated in our Toolkit and seen in this initiative — is a key component of collaborations between and among entities with access to differing information and with differing policies related to how that information can be used. Openly sharing information, including disclosing sensitive facts, gives collaboration partners a more comprehensive understanding of the issue. In the long term, sharing information also builds trust among partners.

In the case of FosterEd, an intersector initiative profiled in our Case Library that aimed to improve educational outcomes for foster children, partners brought on-the-ground stakeholders such as teachers, school guidance counselors, foster care agency social workers, foster parents, and court staff together through a comprehensive educational case management system in which parties could share information and track student success. We hope that a commitment to information sharing and collaboration in California will have equally positive outcomes for students there. As Harris said in announcing the program, “California has some of the best colleges and universities in the world. But for far too many hard-working students, the dream of an education from a top school is upended by sexual violence. We must acknowledge these students’ value to our future and give them the respect and dignity they deserve as our next leaders.”