There are a variety of ways for members of the Harvard community to become involved with the work of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response (OSAPR). Engaging with this work at an individual level has invaluable community and societal-level positive impact.
Extensive research from the fields of social psychology and public health has demonstrated the effectiveness of community mobilization at all levels of social ecology in order to effect attitudinal and behavioral change. Academic institutions, government agencies, and health organizations have incorporated this research into programs that address gender inequality as a primary predictor of gender-based violence. The less equity that exists between genders in a culture (men having more power than women and trans* people), the more likely rape, sexual assault, and harassment are to occur.
In the last few decades, the discourse surrounding campus sexual violence prevention has focused inordinate attention on the correlation between alcohol use and sexual assault. However, we know from our University health survey that not all sexual assaults involve alcohol. All sexual assaults DO occur in societies where gender inequality exists and is reinforced through language, systems, and policy. Addressing gender inequity requires reflection, action, and vision that is rooted in an anti-oppression, social justice framework. It is hard work that sometimes makes people uncomfortable because we have to acknowledge―individually and collectively―what is deeply ingrained in our (and other) culture (s). Addressing safer drinking and partying strategies is important, but it is a short-term solution that does not unsettle the oppressive structures that support and reinforce gender inequality.
We must be consistent and unwavering in our commitment to anti-oppression and the connection to sexual violence. We view this as the difference between risk reduction programming (safer partying strategies) and prevention programming (attitudinal/behavior change).