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Wednesday, July 06, 2022

UF trying to improve sexual assault, violence and harassment education programs

While students across the country have been filing complaints against their universities citing the mishandling of sexual assault cases, UF is working to improve its own sexual assault and harassment education programs.

Dartmouth College; University of California, Berkeley; Swarthmore College and Occidental College are among the schools currently being audited for their sexual assault policies.

Driving the changes are federal investigations triggered by multiple student complaints.

On pace with the national movement, Chris Loschiavo, a UF program coordinator, said he’s working with a university committee to create posters and an informational website that will contain all the information about UF’s policies related to sexual harassment.

UF is also revamping its Sexual Trauma/Interpersonal Violence Education program, or STRIVE, designed to “educate students on interpersonal violence, specifically focusing on sexual harassment,” said Julia Rae Varnes, a spokeswoman at GatorWell Health Promotion Services.

By Fall 2014, GatorWell will launch a social marketing campaign related to assault.

The agency will also expand the bystander intervention program, which teaches students how to respond if they witness a harassment situation, Varnes said.

Students speaking up is “one of the best ways to prevent sexual assault,” she said.

Some national policies that were already in place are lending support to the direction students and universities are moving toward.

Title IX, a federal law passed in 1972, created equal opportunities for men and women in higher education, and the Clery Act outlines regulation for how colleges and universities may count, collect and classify crimes, said Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center for Security On Campus.

In Florida, as in many other states, no policy exists to require investigation of sexual assault allegations.

“Automatic enforcement may cause some victims to be shy,” Loschiavo said.

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Instead, he said, UF allows victims to decide whether they want their complaints pursued.

“There’s always more you can do,” said Loschiavo, “but we actually do quite a bit.”

A version of this story ran on page 3 on 9/6/2013 under the headline "UF betters harrassment policies" [sic]

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