One in five women is sexually assaulted in college. While sexual violence has long been a critical public health issue, a report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault describes a national urgency to act now and encourages schools to bolster their prevention efforts.

Public Health Newswire caught up with Mighty Fine, MPH, deputy director of APHA’s Center for Professional Development, to find out how public health is working right now to prevent sexual violence on college campuses.

Fine: Last month I joined the new “Not Alone” initiative in Atlanta on behalf of APHA. This included a think tank convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and APHA, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice. This meeting allowed us — sexual violence and campus professionals, and other important stakeholders — to identify promising practices to prevent sexual assault. We worked collectively to critically address the major question: How can we prevent sexual violence on college campuses?

“The think tank meeting afforded us a rare opportunity to convene a diverse group of the leading minds in this field to engage deeply around this issue and potential paths forward,” said James A. Mercy, Ph.D., special advisor for global activities at CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention. “I look forward to the next steps in our process, and anticipate that learnings from the meeting will inform the field’s direction over the next several years.”

Think tank attendees performed a SWOT analysis of current sexual violence prevention strategies in the U.S. Photo by Mighty Fine/APHA

Think tank attendees performed a SWOT analysis of current sexual violence prevention strategies in the U.S. Photo by Mighty Fine/APHA

We looked at a few important areas, including:

  • prevention strategies currently being implemented at community, institutional and societal layers of social ecology;
  • campus policies, systems and infrastructures currently in place to help support sexual violence prevention; and
  • challenges or considerations for primary prevention of sexual violence.

This meeting was a catalyst! CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention will now take the talking points we put on the table to inform both guidance and development of best practices, and lead to college and university campus-based sexual violence prevention strategies.

In July, APHA and CDC will co-host an action planning meeting of 15 state-based teams, spearheaded by CDC’s Rape Prevention Education Program. After attending the meeting teams will have an increased understanding of the guidance and ways to apply multi-year action plans for sexual violence prevention in their states. I’m excited to play my part!