Notre Dame, Indiana University among local colleges fighting sexual violence with awareness, education

Prevention initiatives and victim resources are growing as campuses pay closer attention to sexual assault. 

Posted on Aug. 26, 2014 at 1:16 p.m.

Michiana’s colleges are diverse in size and culture, but there’s at least one thing they have in common – a proactive approach to eliminating sexual violence on their campuses.

Resources by college: 

University of Notre Dame 

  • Out of the Shadows Support Group: A confidential women’s support group for Notre Dame, Saint Mary's and Holy Cross undergraduates who have experienced unwanted sexual contact, sexual assault or rape.
  • A freshman seminar curriculum with several workshops on sexual violence prevention.
  • The Gender Relations Center, which provides a variety of workshops and programs throughout the year aimed at preventing sexual violence. 

Indiana University South Bend

  • IUSBBRAVE: A new program providing orientation, regular training and encourages use of on-campus counseling services.
  • Annual rallies against sexual violence hosted by student life groups.
  • HAVEN, an online program for students on how to reduce the incidence of sexual and relationship violence.

Goshen College

  • Campus-wide education on bystander intervention. 
  • Classes that include discussion on dating violence and stalking.
  • Self defense training.

St. Mary’s College

  • Belles Against Violence, a campus office dedicated to addressing sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking. The program includes a student advisory board, events and educational programs.


Goshen College’s bystander intervention training and University of Notre Dame’s Gender Relations Center, are among local institutions that offer programs to address a problem so widespread that it inspired its own White House task force earlier this year.

’We can’t sweep things under the rug’

Sharon Hurt is assistant director of the Family Justice Center of St. Joseph County and project coordinator for S-O-S, a St. Joseph County rape crisis center that also serves Elkhart County.

In the 25 years she’s spent working with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault – including college students – she’s noticed a change on campuses.

“I don’t know that they’re safer, but we are certainly more aware of what’s happening,” she said. “Title IX has come out and college campuses, the administrations, don’t have a choice anymore. We can’t sweep things under the rug.”

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity that receives federal funding. Discrimination includes sexual harassment, sexual battery, sexual assault and rape.

By the numbers

Between 2010 and 2012, there were 22 reports of forcible sex offenses at the University of Notre Dame, two at IU South Bend, one at St. Mary’s College, two at Bethel College and zero at Goshen CollegeHoly Cross College and the Elkhart and South Bend campuses of Ivy Tech Community College.

(See infographic below for more details.)

Those figures come from schools’ annual crime reports and include only on-campus incidents. 

Note, however, that when it comes to gauging how effective schools are at preventing sexual assault, the numbers don’t necessarily tell the whole story.

Less than 5 percent of completed or attempted rapes against college women are reported to law enforcement, according to a study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

It’s a gap that colleges and universities are more than aware of as they address on-campus sexual crime.

Support groups, workshops and rallies

In August, Indiana University launched a new sexual assault prevention initiative that comes several months after the Board of Trustees approved a student welfare statement that includes a zero tolerance approach to sexual assault.

Starting this fall, each of IU’s seven campuses – including South Bend – will be plastered with posters listing resources and definitions related to sexual violence.

The university will also launch a new website with sexual violence resources and offer increased education at freshmen orientation sessions.

Hurt acknowledges the difficulty in fully understanding the climate of safety on each campus, but she commends local schools for their proactive – rather than reactive – approaches.

“Notre Dame, St. Mary’s, IU, Bethel, Ivy Tech – all of those universities and colleges are on board with stamping out this craziness,” she said. “They all are working hard to proptect the students that go to their institutions.”

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