Background and purpose: Sexual assault and IPV are public health and safety concerns for communities across the United States, including college campuses. The Association of American Universities (AAU) surveyed over 180,000 students at 33 colleges and universities, and found that 13% of respondents experienced sexual assault and 10% experienced IPV since enrolling in college/university (Cantor et al., 2020). Campus-based advocacy models are adapted from community advocacy models typically used in IPV- and sexual assault-focused nonprofits. Many universities, have implemented service models to address the specific needs of students experiencing IPV, sexual assault, and other types of violence and harm, but there has been little evaluation of these services.
Methods: We conducted a conducted a mixed method, two-phased, multi-site program evaluation examining the process, implementation, delivery, and outcomes of advocacy on college campuses in a Southwest state, including interviews with 60 advocacy service users, 28 advocates and other staff, a survey of 112 advocates, and repeated longitudinal assessment with 134 students using advocacy services. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis (qualitative) and descriptive and bivariate statistical analysis (quantitative).
Results: Qualitative interviews and quantitative assessments helped to the trauma-informed, survivor-centered, and social justice-oriented approach for campus-based advocacy and to identify a logic model for campus advocacy services with seven goals and 11 potential long-term outcomes. Our results indicate that campus advocacy programs are successful in helping to meet many of these outcomes. In the short term, advocacy services help students improve safety, gets needs met, and increase connection with the university campus. Over 88.2% of students in the longitudinal assessments reported that their physical safety got better or stayed the same since starting advocacy services; and over 82% of initial impact survey participants reported that they agreed/strongly agreed that their advocate was available when they needed them. In the long-term, violence decreased significantly. Six months after the initial impact survey, there were substantial reductions in the percentage of campus-based advocacy service users who endorsed at least one behavior across most forms of violence assessed, including a 35% reduction in sexual assault (40.5% to 5.5%) and 40% reduction in dating violence (55.4% to 15.1%). Additionally, academics improved. The majority (64%) of campus-based advocacy service users indicated that their grades improved since starting services. At the 6-month follow-up survey, the percentage of participants with an “A” GPA increased from 56.5% to 64.2%. from initial impact surveys to 6-month follow up surveys, there were significant reductions in academic disengagement behaviors, such as students skipping class, missing exams, and dropping or failing a class. Impact interviews found similar results, indicating advocacy services and academic accommodations help students meet their education goals after violence.
Conclusions and Implications: Campus-based advocacy services are impactful in reducing violence and helping students meet their academic goals. Further evaluation of these services is needed to enhance the service model and best meet the needs of survivors on college campuses.