Sexual Misconduct Prevention Training That Resonates With College Students

Sexual misconduct prevention training is an area gaining urgency in higher education and beyond.
Released just last month, the Association of American Universities published their latest campus climate survey results on sexual assault and misconduct. The survey contains 2018 data from more than 180,000 students across 33 universities. AAU’s president Mary Sue Colman summarizes:

“The disturbing news from this year’s survey is that sexual assault and misconduct remain far too prevalent among students at all levels of study. The good news…is that students are more knowledgeable than they were four years ago about what constitutes sexual assault and misconduct, how to report it, and what resources are available to victims.

Nonetheless, as in 2015, the survey finds that most students who report having been victimized do not report that assault to any campus resources available to help them or to local police…Although we’ve made progress, there is much work to do. Our institutions within AAU and other colleges and universities must continue to educate students about how to report sexual assault and misconduct.

According to the survey, 1 in 8 college students has experienced nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force or inability to consent since enrolling at their school. For undergraduate women, this number is as high as 1 in 3. For students who identify as transgender, nonbinary/genderqueer, gender questioning, or gender not listed (TGQN), the number is as high as 1 in 5.

Further, 42% of students have experienced at least one sexually harassing behavior since enrollment. Ten percent of students have experienced intimate partner violence since enrolling in school, and 6% of students have experienced stalking.

These numbers are alarming. Under federal civil rights laws like Title IX, sexual harrassment and sexual violence are prohibited. These laws posit that all students have equal access to education.

The reality of ensuring a student’s legal rights is incredibly difficult. Students should feel that their campus is a safe environment to grow academically, socially, and emotionally. Unfortunately, 1 in 4 students reported that sexual assault and sexual misconduct was either “very” or “extremely” problematic at their school, with even higher numbers for women and TGQN students. And nearly 20% of students who have experienced harassment say that that behavior “limited their ability to participate in an academic program.”

Why Sexual Misconduct Prevention Training

Close to 50% of students believe there is at least some likelihood that they will experience sexual assault or other sexual misconduct in the future while enrolled at their university.

It should not be the norm that students expect misconduct to be part of their college experience. To lower this number, universities must set a tone that sexual misconduct is not only unacceptable, but not the norm. And with that tone, every student plays a role in navigating situations safely and knowing how to take action to prevent misconduct.

Many colleges currently implement sexual misconduct prevention training for students under the Clery Act/Campus SaVE Act, passed in 2013. And many administrators do this not just for federal compliance, but also to create a safer and more aware campus community. For example, there remains a knowledge gap for students. Only a third of students felt they were “very” or “extremely” knowledgeable about the definition of sexual assault, where to get help, and how to report it.

Going Beyond Awareness

Teaching students about consent—how to get and give it—and how to appropriately intervene as a bystander in situations where someone else is at risk can help prevent more students from becoming a statistic.

Sexual misconduct prevention training isn’t new. But are the preventative measures currently in place doing enough? While 81% of students say they have participated in training modules or information sessions on sexual misconduct, only 62% say they learned how to prevent sexual assault or other sexual misconduct.

How can we get that number to 100% Are students actually gaining valuable knowledge and skills to help them in real-life scenarios? Can we do more? The answer to that last question is a resounding YES, and that’s exactly why we created our latest simulation.

The Story Behind The Product

Our newest simulation, Sexual Misconduct Prevention for Students, is an expansion of our At-Risk suite of mental health and suicide prevention simulations for college students, faculty, and staff. These existing simulations, which address psychological distress, have significantly increased college students’ mental health skills, peer referrals, and self-referrals, and we knew that the power of interacting with virtual humans could also have a great impact on sexual misconduct prevention training.

After looking at some of the solutions in the market, we felt like there were some missing pieces. It’s not enough to only address sexual assault. Additionally, it’s important that sexual misconduct prevention training includes diverse examples of sexual orientation and gender identity that’s more representative of the population, especially considering that these groups are at higher risk of sexual assault.

Students, especially first-years and transfer students, have a lot going on and are taking in a lot of information at the start of a school year. If students aren’t engaged, if training takes up too much time, or if they don’t feel that the content is relevant to them, it’s unlikely that the training will lead to actual behavior change.

Building on 15+ Years in Higher Education

From our experience with student simulations, we know that student training needs to be relevant and engaging in order to have the greatest impact. When students can practice responding to realistic scenarios with virtual humans, they gain more confidence and feel better prepared. Especially in situations like intervening as a bystander, asking for consent, and helping a friend who is a victim of sexual misconduct, it may not be easy to know what to say or do. It’s one thing to read or be told what to do; it’s another to actually put it into practice.

We consulted with real students to incorporate relevant and realistic scenarios – at parties, in dorm rooms – into our new Sexual Misconduct Prevention for Students simulation. We also worked with legal experts, sexual assault prevention leaders, and instructional designers to provide the best information, evidence-based communication techniques, and an engaging, interactive experience in order to help shape attitudes and behavior that lead to safer campus climates.

How the Sexual Misconduct Prevention for Students Simulation Is Different

In the simulation, students complete five modules, which take a total of 75 minutes to complete online. You can learn more about each of the modules here.

After completing the simulation, students should be able to:

  • Understand the importance of preventing sexual assault and recognize warning signs
  • Identify strategies for intervening and how to respond effectively in situations where peers have been affected by sexual violence or misconduct
  • Differentiate the roles of Title IX coordinator, confidential advocate, and counseling services, and know when and how to refer peers
  • Determine when consent has or has not been given, and practice how to ask for, give, and not give sexual consent

Students have role-play conversations with virtual humans in various scenarios so they can practice the skills they’ve learned. Virtual coaches also provide personalized feedback.

This simulation meets compliance requirements for Title IX and the Clery Act, but goes beyond compliance with an evidence-based approach proven to engage college students. The learning design is meant to empower students and give them confidence to take action in difficult or awkward situations, for themselves or for a peer.

And for universities looking to reach hundreds or thousands of students with these skills, Kognito provides technology that allows for administrators to easily implement and track completion.

Experience the Simulation

We’re thrilled to launch this new simulation in the spring of 2020. We will update this page when a demo becomes available. In the meantime experience a higher education Kognito demo here if you haven’t already!

For a preview of Sexual Misconduct Prevention for Students, don’t miss this webinar available on-demand. Our product team will give an exclusive first look at the simulation and answer your questions.

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