Task force looks to better deal with domestic violence

Kelly Byer

Committee will suggest best practice models to Board of Regents

A task force examining Ohio college and university safety practices for intimate partner violence, stalking and sexual violence will recommend procedures to the Ohio Board of Regents in the spring.

“The idea is to create a best practice model for voluntary use by Ohio’s colleges and universities,” said Hollie Hinton, director of the Governor’s Office for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach.

Hinton said the task force began after the group wanted to expand the scope of a Board of Regents report, which focused mainly on emergency preparedness in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings.

Debra Seltzer, program administrator for the Ohio Department of Health, said the task force divided to focus on specific practices – preparedness, prevention, response and recovery.

“We have convened four committees that are working in different areas of recommendations for colleges and universities,” Seltzer said. “Our goal is to have actual recommendations by April, which is sexual assault awareness month.”

John Peach, director of public safety and Kent State police chief, said sexual violence crimes should concern all campuses, especially since women compose the majority of campus populations and are the most vulnerable.

College-aged women are four times more likely to be sexually assaulted, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

“So, it’s an important issue to try and get the information out and make people aware of things they can do to reduce the potential for them to become victims,” Peach said.

Peach, who is a member of the response committee, said he will be looking at crime alerts, the institution’s response and the Jeanne Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to report information about crimes on campuses.

Hinton said the committees will work to define intimate partner violence, stalking and sexual violence.

“That’s one of the things we’re working on is helping to lay out definitions,” she said. “We’re looking at models from other states and non-profit organizations to find the best definitions that could fit.”

Seltzer said the statewide task force, which originally had about 30 members, including law enforcement, faculty, students and other organizations, has grown since the task force conducted an online survey.

“We’re in the process right now of contacting the people that were interested in participating,” she said.

Hinton said the survey also helped give a sense of what universities have done in terms of prevention and response.

“Some colleges and universities have very elaborate, proactive approaches on these issues,” she said. “Others may not have a particular focus on them, or it can really be a wide range.”

Peach said one goal is to find practices applicable to all campuses.

“We want to find out what other universities are doing, too,” he said. “We certainly don’t believe Kent State is doing the very best of all universities, so we really have to find out what’s some common practices that seem to be helpful out there.”

Seltzer said the task force had two meetings and held a panel to discuss the issues at a statewide summit on campus safety Aug. 14.

“We’re focusing on getting the recommendations, and then we’ll decide where to go from there,” she said.

Contact safety reporter Kelly Byer at [email protected].