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Sexual Violence Prevention Initiative

Sexual Violence Prevention Initiative

The Sexual Violence Prevention Initiative was formed in fall 2023 to advance the university's framework for sustainable climate and cultural transformation that establishes sexual violence prevention as a shared responsibility of the entire Virginia Tech community.

If you are a student looking to help guide the university in its developing strategies, contact Meghan Weyrens Kuhn, program director of the Sexual Violence Prevention Initiative, and Kelly Oaks, associate vice president for equity and accessibility.

Mac Babb – chief of police and director of security, Virginia Tech Police
Paige Bik – assistant director, prevention, Women’s Center at Virginia Tech
Meagan Brem** – assistant professor, Department of Psychology
Chelsea Clery – sexual violence prevention specialist, Hokie Wellness
Amy Epperley – director, Hokie Wellness
Kristina Hartman** – associate, University Legal Counsel
Jennifer Johnson** – professor and chair, Sociology
Frances Keene* – vice president, Student Affairs
Meghan Kuhn – program director, Sexual Violence Prevention Initiative
Kelly Oaks* – associate vice president, Equity and Accessibility
Katie Polidoro – Title IX coordinator
Ellen Plummer – associate vice provost, Academic Administration
Rohsaan Settle - interim director for student conduct, Student Affairs
Mark Sikes – dean of students
Christine Dennis Smith – co-director, Women’s Center at Virginia Tech
Shaka Sydnor – director, Dean of Students Office
Lisa Wilkes* – vice president for strategic initiatives, Office of the President

*member of the Executive Leadership Team
**steering committee advisor

In 2021, President Tim Sands charged the Sexual Violence Culture and Climate Work Group (SVCC) to develop a framework for sustainable climate and cultural transformation that establishes sexual violence prevention as a shared responsibility of the entire Virginia Tech community. 

Over two years, SVCC and its subcommittees developed a foundation of resources, programs, and assessment tools. During that time, SVCC also:

-   Established a full-time gender-based violence prevention specialist
-   Launched the SAFE at VT website, a centralized hub where members of the VT community can find information about how to report sexual violence and harassment, how survivors can find help and support, and how to become involved in prevention and education efforts
-   Implemented a university-wide prevention campaign
-   Redesigned timely warnings to provide more information about what has occurred in cases of sexual assault, and available resources, while still protecting the privacy of survivors
-   Developed the framework for alternative resolution practice based on restorative justice principles
-   Expanded response and prevention training for student employees in residence halls
-   Held community engagement events focusing on campus culture and prevention education, including: “Deconstructing Sexual Violence” workshops, multiple outreach and tabling events, "Sexual Violence & Space" workshop, Day of Service with End Rape on Campus, Denim Day commemoration
-   Hosted a Sexual Violence Culture and Climate Summit featuring the authors of Sexual Citizens
-   Recommended a framework for sexual violence prevention and culture change that includes increased student representation

The Sexual Violence Prevention Initiative was formed in fall 2023 to continue the work of SVCC with a concentrated effort around sexual violence prevention.

VT News coverage of the SVCC:

November 2021 – President Sands forms work group to examine Virginia Tech’s sexual violence culture and climate

November 2021 – Sexual Violence Culture and Climate Work Group holds first meeting

December 2021 – Sexual Violence Culture and Climate Work Group efforts continue

March 2022 – Student voice plays role in Sexual Violence Culture and Climate Work Group

May 2022 – Chelsea Cleary named Virginia Tech’s first sexual assault prevention specialist

August 2022 – Virginia Tech launches SAFE at VT website

September 2022 – Sexual Violence Culture and Climate Work Group putting plans into action

Initiative Updates

Since forming at the end of September, the Sexual Violence Prevention Initiative (SVPI) members have established a foundation of knowledge about current Virginia Tech sexual violence prevention resources and programs in anticipation of creating a strategic plan for the university. They also set strategic goals and sub-committees to concentrate their efforts.

The steering committee members met bi-weekly and gathered for an all-day retreat in early November. Over the course of these discussions, this group:

-   Outlined expectations for the steering committee
-   Discussed various models and challenges of changing the culture around sexual violence on Virginia Tech campuses
-   Identified and learned more about some of Virginia Tech’s current sexual violence prevention resources and programs
-   Noted in current programming where divisional work overlaps and what communities are currently underserved
-   Began discussing what further resources would be needed to elevate the effectiveness of current programming

The group is working on a strategic plan draft based on these fall discussions, which will be completed in the spring semester.

Recognizing the essential importance of student participation in these conversations and efforts, SVPI created undergraduate and graduate student advisory committees in October to lend the Virginia Tech student perspective and voice to the steering committee and the university’s sexual violence prevention work. These groups met monthly and completed the following:

-   Created goals for the academic year
-   Provided feedback and identified stakeholder groups in addition to those identified by the steering committee
-   Selected three priorities, each, for SVPI based on the student perspective
-   Reviewed current prevention work on campus and provided feedback on overlaps and gaps for the student body

These discussions are being used to address missing elements for the steering committee’s strategic plan recommendation where student perspectives offer unique insight.

If you are a student who wants to lend your voice to these committees next semester, contact Meghan Weyrens Kuhn, program director of the Sexual Violence Prevention Initiative.

Members of the steering committee continued a share-out of data and trends on sexual violence on Virginia Tech’s campus. This meeting in particular discussed trends noted by the Title IX Office, the VTPD, and the Women Centers’ CARES program. The committee noted commonalities between the data collected and where there were gaps.

Those working in student-facing offices also noted desires expressed by students for expanded informal processes and alternative resolutions to addressing sexual violence cases. Observations also highlighted the need for student education on healthy relationships and interpersonal communication.

The early draft of a strategic plan was also outlined, based on discussions and notes from the fall meetings. This was submitted to committee members for their initial feedback.

Subcommittees focused on prevention, and advocacy and support have begun to meet and will report out at the end of February.

In their January meetings, the undergraduate and graduate student advisory groups brainstormed communication methods that would reach students looking for information around sexual violence prevention.  

At the beginning of the month, the steering committee reviewed information presented in the previous two meetings by Virginia Tech researchers and campus programs/offices related to sexual violence on campus. They synthesized takeaways and uncovered challenges that the data presented. The group then brainstormed the vision and guiding principles for prevention work that should inform short and long-term goals in the strategic plan draft. Subcommittees also briefly reported on their progress.

At the end of the month, the subcommittees focused on advocacy and support, and prevention reported about their progress in more detail to the wider steering committee. The two subcommittees identified objectives, stakeholders, services, and gaps relative to their particular focus, as well as identified future needs. Members of the steering committee then had the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.

The steering committee observed an overlap presented between the two in the need for consistent language-use across the university in order to better identify resources.

The need for informal resolution processes was also noted by the steering committee, and it was referred to the Title IX Policy and Practice Committee to address. The committee reviews policy and practices for addressing sexual harassment and violence at Virginia Tech. It is led by the Title IX coordinator, Katie Polidoro.

In their February meeting, the student advisory groups provided feedback and ideas for the strategic themes to be outlined in the Strategic Planning Document.

The first meeting of the month for the steering committee continued discussion on the subcommittee presentations, including clarifying questions around shared terminology and language consistency. The committee then examined the potential benefits and challenges of different organizational structures (centralized vs decentralized) in preparation to recommend priorities for a model that will support sexual violence prevention (SVP) work and can be effectively integrated into Virginia Tech’s existing culture.

The following meeting continued this line of inquiry, and prompted discussion on a hybrid model that leverages the best of both centralized and decentralized models. This prompted discussion on the specific administrative challenges that would need to be prioritized in determining this new model, such as resource allocation, accountability, communication, and reporting structures. Existing campus structures, built around other types of work, were pointed to as possible ways to embed SVP work in multiple offices/organizations while still leveraging a centralized mission and director who can advocate for and coordinate resources. Once a model is decided upon by the executive leadership team, additional steps to support implementation will be built into the SVPI strategic plan.

In their March meeting, the student advisory groups watched the prevention subcommittee presentation given to the steering committee and provided their top three recommendations for prevention as feedback.

In March, there were also a series of student feedback sessions, where student groups had the opportunity to review preliminary components of the strategic plan to help guide its drafting. They reviewed and commented on strategic goals methods of engagement, and necessary partnerships and outreach needed to make the plan successful. 

In spring 2024, Virginia Tech was accepted into the Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education, convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Membership in the organization offers collaborative opportunities with peers seeking to address and prevent sexual harassment across disciplines in higher education and will support the university’s goals to prevent sexual harassment and violence.

Read Virginia Tech's 2024 Statement of Commitment. 

Read the announcement about joining Action Collaborative on VT News.

In the first meeting of the month, the steering committee reviewed and made contributions to the standing draft of the Strategic Plan, with particular focus on the sections regarding History and Context, Audience and Partners, and the Strategic Timeline.

For the History and Context section, members highlighted the importance of acknowledging the historical and current work in sexual violence prevention on campus and to help illustrate why prevention is the focus of this initiative.

 When expanding on conversations about audiences. partners, and stakeholders, members strategically focused on identifying which campus groups have been historical partners, identifying demographics for whom the work needs to be expanded (such as off-campus students), and how develop new partnerships.

In reviewing the programmatic aspect of the strategic timeline, members emphasized the need for resources, ways to measure success, and ways to be held accountable for timeline goals. It was also noted that the Student Advisory Groups were raising similar questions.

In the month’s second meeting, the steering committee was joined by the executive leadership team to review and elaborate on conclusions drawn from the semester’s meetings.

This month, the student advisory groups held a discussion on possible models for organizational structures (centralized vs decentralized), as well as gave their feedback on the Process and Inputs section of the strategic plan.

On the morning of April 18, SVPI hosted the SVPI Summit at the Inn at Virginia Tech, which featured presentations on work and research being done by staff, faculty, and students related to sexual violence prevention. Takeaways from these presentations have been considered in the strategic plan’s formation.