University’s 20:1 Program attracts Department of Defense attention
With the current scrutiny by Congress into what some have termed a sexual assault crisis in the military, a recent visit to Binghamton University by the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention Team to learn about its 20:1 Program carries heightened significance.
In late April, the DOD team of military and civilian members, led by United States Marine Corps Colonel Mary H. Reinwald, deputy director for Prevention and Victim Assistance, and U.S. Army Major John Ruckauf, prevention operations officer, came to campus for three days to learn about Binghamton’s 20:1 sexual assault prevention program – a best practice they might incorporate into the military.
“We recognized that we don’t have all the answers,” Reinwald said, “but we have shifted our focus from training to prevention.
“This is a huge culture shift for all the services,” she said. “The esteem that the American public holds for the military is tremendous, but it’s a huge responsibility and sexual assault is a stigma and we won’t tolerate it anymore. It starts with the culture change.”
The DOD team is reaching out to college campuses to learn about best practices, well-respected programs and new ideas. Binghamton’s 20:1 Program, mentioned recently by the DOD at a White House briefing as a best practice, rose to the top and the trip to Binghamton was the team’s first to any college campus.
The DOD team is working to reinvigorate sexual assault prevention in the military and found the 20:1 Program while doing research. “We came upon 20:1 and are really interested,” said Ruckauf. “A majority of the sexual assaults that are being reported in the military are ‘peer-on-peer.’ We’re looking to what you’re doing and might try to adapt it. Peers see the interaction and allow it to occur, so we’re looking for more emphasis in our military program. Our intent is to create a national benchmark program.”
“Each of us deal with young people at the early stages of their careers and depend upon our ability to create a community and a sense of belonging so they can thrive,” Brian Rose, vice president for student affairs, told the DOD team. “Sexual assault is an interrupter of that and a challenge to us … a vexing problem. We’re eager to learn what we can from you and delighted to share what we’ve come up with. We hope it takes us both to a better place.”
The military is dealing with a lot of well-ingrained ideas and perceptions, Reinwald said, and the DOD hopes to turn that around. “When coming back from a war, discipline can often lapse and the little things build up to the broader picture,” she said. “We have some significant challenges because of the scope − culture, geography, preconceived notions – but there are a lot of similarities between military and university settings.”
“We’re marrying some of the research that our target population is the 18-24 year-old group and these people are in transition with all kinds of things happening,” said Ruckauf. “They’re moving from one set of social norms to another, trying to fit in, a lot of things are similar. So let’s think out of the box in how we address that age group and transitions.”
“We will be curious what you learn, and if the information is transferable across the institutions we would like to see some sharing in the future,” Rose said.
Binghamton University’s 20:1 Program started in 2004, when the University’s fraternity community saw the need to change the culture concerning sexual assault. Since then, nearly 100 fraternity peer educators from diverse groups have volunteered or interned to educate other men on issues of sexual assault prevention, including possible sexual assault situations, the definition of consent and bystander behavior. They selected the name 20:1 because approximately 20 women per hour are sexually assaulted in the United States.