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College Campuses Use Holistic Approach to Prevent Sexual Assault

By Cheryl Steinberg

With all the recent reports of rape and sexual assault on college campuses, it’s become clear that it’s an issue that’s been ignored for far too long and it’s not going away. Not on its own, at least.

That’s why a new plan is in development that would be brought to college campuses. It’s a proactive, progressive approach to prevent sexual assaults on campus.

A New York-based health and wellness company is working to help change that. National Health Promotion Associates (NHPA) has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop and evaluate an effective approach to preventing sexual violence.

The stark and disturbing truth is that as many as one in five college students experiences sexual assault during their college career. This is not something that can be ignored.

As it stands now, many colleges and universities have their own, private system when it comes to penalizing their students, ranging from academic infractions like plagiarism and cheating all the way up to actual criminal acts, specifically crimes involving sexual assault. That means that these cases don’t often get reported to the actual authorities; instead, the school’s administration decides the punishment, if any. In some cases of on-campus sexual assault, the perpetrator received only a slap on the wrist, still having the opportunity to graduate and walk in the ceremony.

College Campuses Use Holistic Approach to Prevent Sexual Assault

NHPA’s new program is designed for incoming college students and is based on the science of the Botvin Life Skills Training (LST) program. In more than 30 different studies and tests, which were peer-reviewed, LST has proven to radically cut down teen alcohol and drug abuse as well as violence, in some cases by as much as by 80%.

The research shows that the LST program produces reduced alcohol use, illicit drug use, and violence regardless of the population, provider, and delivery method. Furthermore, the studies show that these positive effects are long-lasting; lasting prevention effects carried over well into young adulthood.

The new sexual violence prevention program will take a holistic approach. Students will learn important life skills for handling the challenges of everyday college life, enhancing the development of general personal and social competence, and increasing overall resilience.

“We are excited about receiving this funding from NIH, and look forward to this opportunity to develop and test an innovative program that will stop sexual violence before it ever begins,” said Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin, developer of the LifeSkills Training program, professor emeritus of Cornell University’s Weill Medical College, and president of NHPA. “Since sexual violence often occurs while people are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it is important that prevention programs focus on alcohol and drug abuse as well as sexual violence.”

Dr. Kenneth Griffin, Senior Research Scientist at NHPA and director of the team developing the new program, added that “this new program will use a series of interactive web-based and face-to-face learning activities to change social norms surrounding alcohol/drug abuse and sexual violence, train bystanders to recognize and respond to high-risk situations, and help college students develop the kind of skills that lead to healthy relationships.”

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