What to Include on Your Campus’ Website About Sexual Assault

How to Address Sexual Assault on Your Website

Posted by Shelley Kilpatrick on 4 February 2016 |

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Do Students Have Access to the Information They Need About Sexual Assault?

campus website informationHigher education institutions are making significant progress when it comes to responding to sexual assault on campus. Many have started new initiatives promoting bystander intervention training, and others are offering services, such as medical care and counseling, to help survivors.

But are students aware of everything you’re doing and the resources available to them? They might not be if your website isn’t up-to-date or the relevant facts aren’t easy to find within the first few clicks.

For example, the University of Michigan’s campus climate survey revealed that while the majority of students knew the school had a sexual misconduct policy, less than half knew where to find it.

And with college students using the Internet and search engines as their primary way to find information, your website is more important than ever.

In fact, a new study found that while 88 percent of institutions examined provide basic information about sexual assault policies on their websites, additional information is lacking and in many cases very hard to find.

Emily Lund, one of study’s authors, stated to Inside Higher Ed, “Most of the information was reactive and focused only on the policy end of things, rather than focusing on creating a student body that is more aware of issues like rape myths and victim blaming.”

So in an effort to help, we’ve put together a list of five ways you can improve your campus’ website.

1. Define All Areas of Sexual Violence

Sexual assault is only one aspect of sexual violence. Make sure your website addresses all of the issues such as stalking, domestic violence and sexual harassment. Provide clear definitions so that students know how to recognize it if they, or a friend experience sexual violence.

Also, don’t forget to cover topics related to sexual violence like drinking, consent and bystander intervention. The more information you give students, the better armed they will be when faced with difficult situations.

When making her recommendations on what campuses can do to improve their websites, Lund suggested, “Directly addressing issues like affirmative consent, victim blaming and rape myths could help create a better informed student body overall.”

2. Advise Students About Their Options

When a student has been sexually assaulted, they need to know their options. And if the student wants anonymity or is afraid, they’ll probably prefer finding the information on your website.

For example, the University of Oregon allows students to fill out a report that’s anonymous. And the school also informs students about the reporting process and answers other concerns they might have about the process. The school even provides information about other options students have, such as counseling services.

3. Make Information Easy to Locate

If a student thinks they might have been sexually assaulted, the last thing they want to do is fumble around your website clicking on links to find the information they need.

IACLEA Connections recommends that the information should be no more than four clicks away from the home page to make it easy for students to access.

Iowa State University’s website is a great example, as you can see in the image below. The link from the home page goes directly to the section of the school’s website that addresses sexual assault.

website information4. Link to Yours and Outside Resources

Many schools offer more resources than what students can find online. For example, the University of Cincinnati (UC) provides sexual violence survivors with many different services, and the school lists them on its website. UC also provides information for off-campus options if a student would rather seek help elsewhere.

You can also include links to groups on campus that are working to prevent sexual violence. For example, the University of Texas’s website links to its Voice’s Against Violence Theatre for Dialogue, a student program that uses applied theatre and performance to educate about interpersonal violence.

5. Increase Readability with Simple Formatting

Writing for the web is different than, say, writing a research paper. Most people scan for information instead of reading every word. And large sections filled with text are hard to read.

To increase readability and the overall helpfulness of your website, break up the text. Here are some ways you can do it:

  • Use headers like the one above
  • Limit paragraphs to 3 sentences
  • Use bullets and numbered lists
  • Bold important words and phrases
  • Use anchors for quick navigation

Speaking of navigation, make sure that you link to relevant information in an obvious way. For example, if you have a frequently asked questions section, link each question to a section on the page to avoid unnecessary scrolling.

Conclusion

Your website is important for providing students with information about sexual assault. If you keep the design and navigation up to date and create content that is thorough and useful, your students will have a better experience.

And if you want another way to teach students about sexual assault, learn more about our Student Empower training.

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