To mark the significance of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Governor Cuomo announced that schools nationwide have embraced programs aimed at preventing both sexual and interpersonal violence on campuses. While college campuses have always a hub of freedom, sexual misconduct has become pervasive.
In an effort to combat on-campus sexual and other violence, SPARC, or the Sexual and interpersonal violence Prevention and Response Course, has been downloaded by more than 140 U.S. universities and colleges, reaching 1.5 million students, and three Canadian provinces are looking into using SPARC.
The training program gives students the resources and tools to combat all kinds of assault. The curriculum educates the student population on how to recognize any kind of sexual harassment and violence, and then how to report it. Eradicating a hostile environment will go a long way towards ensuring a safe environment at school and the best way to do this is to prevent the assault and violence from happening in the first place.
The schools downloaded the free online course, created in New York by the State University of New York (SUNY), along with the City University of New York (CUNY) and the New York State Department of Health, in an effort to increase awareness and prevent violence against any student. New York established a requirement, called the ‘Enough is Enough’ law, that compels all New York colleges to adopt a uniform definition of affirmative consent, as well as mandatory training.
Consent is defined as the voluntary, knowing, mutual decision to proceed among all participants in any sexual activity. SPARC, launched in April 2017 as a free resource, uses the Blackboard technology learning system, which allows for customization by each school to incorporate individual campus policies.
As encouraging as the embrace of SPARC is, schools throughout the U.S. still need to do more, as reports of on-campus sexual assaults are still rampant.
According to RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), women in college aged 18-24 are three times more likely to experience sexual violence than women that age who are not in college. Further, 23.1% of female undergraduates and 5.4 percent of male undergraduates have experienced rape or assault.