How Dartmouth Is Getting Students To Help Prevent Sexual Assault

Should more universities follow Dartmouth's lead?
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A national survey on campus sexual assault found that most college students who witnessed risky or dangerous situations did nothing to intervene, but there was one university that stood out.

The major survey by the Association of American Universities included responses from 150,000 students at 27 schools. The study had a 19 percent response rate overall.

Dartmouth College had the highest rate of bystanders who took some type of action when they saw someone acting in a "sexually violent or harassing manner," with 57.7 percent doing so. Nationally, 45.5 percent of students did something when witnessing this same sort of situation.

More than 2,700 Dartmouth students at the Hanover, New Hampshire, campus took the survey, providing an overall response rate of 41.7 percent.

Dartmouth is under a compliance review by the U.S. Department of Education for how it handles sexual violence and harassment, and has been accused for years of fostering a rape culture.

Yet, in response to the focus on sexual assault, Dartmouth has rolled out several initiatives to address the issue in recent years, including Green Dot bystander intervention training. Bystander intervention is essentially teaching students how to spot risky or dangerous situations among friends and then respond to stop it.

On a campus with 4,200 undergrads and 2,000 grad students, Dartmouth's bystander intervention training has reached more than 2,800 students over the past two years, a school spokeswoman said Tuesday.

All students joining fraternities and sororities are also now required to take part in the Dartmouth Bystander Initiative, thanks to a decision by the Greek Leadership Council.

"We are developing a 'Game Plan' series with the staff in Athletics, a series of workshops on intervention in different scenarios -- sexual assault, domestic/dating violence, stalking, and harassment," said Diana Lawrence, Dartmouth's media relations director. "The workshops are delivered with full teams and the teams make commitments to be active bystanders in our community and to support others in positive intervention."

The AAU survey still showed that 13.3 percent of female undergraduates at Dartmouth said they were victims of nonconsensual penetration during their college careers. Since this is the first time this survey was deployed, there is no comparison for a previous year.

The school has also started a new program in orientation for first-year students, and is deploying a four-year prevention and education curriculum for sexual violence.

"This will push us to the next level of bystander intervention education," Lawrence said.


Tyler Kingkade covers higher education and sexual violence, and is based in New York. You can contact him at, or on Twitter: @tylerkingkade.


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