In April 2002, the Committee to Address Sexual Assault at Harvard (CASAH) released a document, known as the “Leaning Report,” after Chair Jennifer Leaning. The report contained recommendations to strengthen the College’s educational and support services related to sexual violence on campus based on fact-finding and analysis of over 60 confidential interviews and meetings with Harvard students, faculty, and staff. Significantly, the report highlighted a need to create a centralized office to coordinate education and support services for students.
The Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (OSAPR) opened its doors in June of 2003 under the direction of Susan Marine. As Director, Marine oversaw a full-time Education Specialist and part-time Prevention Specialist. For incoming freshman, Marine brought 'Sex Signals,' a nationally recognized performance group intended to teach students about consent, communication, and sexual violence. After the performance, OSAPR staff members facilitated discussions with each freshman entryway about 'Sex Signals', relationships at Harvard, and bystander intervention.
From September 2006 through September 2013, Sarah Rankin served as Director of OSAPR. Rankin’s leadership resulted in the expansion of crisis services to university-wide and creation of the Student Alliance and Harvard Men Against Rape. Responding to student feedback, Rankin brought in 'Speak About It' to replace 'Sex Signals' and the entryway discussions evolved to peer-led dialogues with members of CARE- Consent Advocates, Relationship Educators, formerly the Student Alliance. Every spring, new CARE members receive over 40 hours of training to lead informative and thoughtful discussions with their peers. Rankin left Harvard in the fall of 2013, succeeded by Alicia Oeser.
In the spring of 2014, as national political and media attention increasingly focused on Sexual Assault on college campuses, Harvard President Drew Faust committed to improving the University's prevention efforts. Faust convened a Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Assault, which in turn requested additional staffing for OSAPR. By Fall 2014, OSAPR welcomed four additional staff positions.
The office now includes the Director, Associate Director, Survivor Advocate, Community Advocate, Education Specialist, and Administrative Assistant. As a result of increased capacity and University support, educational programming is now available to all students, staff, and faculty. OSAPR's goal is to work collaboratively with the community to develop culturally-competent, public health prevention models, from an anti-oppression framework. OSAPR's work with survivors continues to be a priority with a 24-hr hotline and trauma-informed counseling.