New Agreement Strengthens Sexual Assault Prevention and Victims’ Services
The University of Alaska System and the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (ANDVSA) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to prevent sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence and stalking on all 16 UA campuses.
The agreement will strengthen sexual assault prevention training, provide additional services to victims and open new avenues for confidential reporting.
The ANDVSA is a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating sexual assault and domestic violence across the state. It’s a coalition of 23 victims’ service agencies and advocacy organizations throughout the state.
“It is so empowering to be able to work with ANDVSA,” said Marva Watson, director of campus diversity and compliance at the University of Alaska Anchorage. “They’ve already established a comprehensive way of working across Alaska. This will help the university refine what we have and make it even better. I see this agreement as nothing but a benefit.”
“We are thrilled to partner with the University of Alaska System to provide confidential and supportive services to victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence and stalking on UA campuses and to assist the university’s staff with resources and training. This partnership ensures that victims will know there are options and resources available both in the community and on-campus to assist them and allow them to continue their education,” said Peggy Brown, executive director of ANDVSA.
University of Alaska Fairbanks Police Chief Keith Mallard said the agreement will provide additional, confidential services to victims not only at UAF, but also all across the UA System. “By incorporating ANDVSA we’ve increased the chances of providing positive support to victims, and getting them the information on optional services available at the university.”
UA students or employees who have been victims of sexual violence or harassment have certain rights on a campus setting, including the right to a learning and working environment free from discrimination and harassment. They also have the right to receive assistance with resolving the issue, through a formal or informal complaint process, free from retaliation. Interim measures aimed at helping a victim of sexual assault can include altering class schedules, moving dorm rooms, reimbursing for dropped classes and providing on-campus protective orders and safety escorts.
The ANDVSA affiliated organizations provide local sexual assault and violence services, including confidential crisis intervention and counseling, assisting with medical appointments and referrals for pro-bono legal services. All services provided by ANDVSA member programs to UA students and employees will be kept confidential as required by the Violence Against Women Act and Family Violence Prevention and Services Act.
The ANDVSA also provides prevention and bystander intervention training throughout the state. They have partnered with various state, tribal, private and national organizations working on training resources, compliance issues and prevention approaches. It brings to the university not only assistance in creating policies for compliance with federal guidelines, but also with training curriculum, onsite training options, campaigns and resources for campus and community engagement outside campus.
The ANDVSA also will assist the university by providing aggregate reports about incidents involving UA students or employees. That information, in addition to fulfilling annual safety reporting requirements, will further help the university identify patterns or systemic problems relating to sexual harassment and violence on its campuses.
Kirk McAllister, human resources director at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau, said the agreement is especially helpful for smaller, more rural campuses in communities where the ANDVSA already has a strong presence. “It’s reassuring to know we now have this incredible partnership, which will only increase services and resources for our students, even at remote campuses, ” he said.
Safety on America’s college and university campuses, specifically regarding sexual assault and sexual harassment, has become a national issue. In Alaska, domestic violence and sexual assault are higher than the national average.
UA is currently one of a number of universities across the country undergoing a Title IX compliance review to ensure policies and procedures related to sexual assault and sexual harassment comply with federal law. UA has taken the review as an opportunity to improve services and procedures for students and employees. Title IX is the section of federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination in educational institutions. Sexual assault and sexual harassment are a form of such discrimination.
The agreement offers the opportunity for the network and the university to partner on a number of different prevention initiatives, including the opportunity to apply for grants that could improve campus safety.