According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in 5 women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.
As a former higher education administrator and sexual assault survivor, Dr. Penny Smith has devoted her time and energies to improve not only reporting of the crime, but also prevention. In 2014, Smith created Keys to Coping, an online sexual assault reporting tool.
Her mission then continues to be her mission now. Stop the deafening silence surrounding sexual assaults on college campuses and universities.
The web-based tool’s objective is to revolutionize and improve reporting of campus sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking by colleges and universities. The program is available to students, faculty, administrators and bystanders.
Victims who report assault can capture and describe injuries using a blank image of a human figure. Identifying all injuries is paramount, particularly when it comes to the prosecution of attackers. Smith cites the need to identify every type of physical damage from scratches and bruises to broken arms and more deadly injuries.
Recently, Smith fine-tuned the program to increase support for victims, intervention training for bystanders, and improved risk mitigation for educational institutions. The changes also provide educational institutions more prevention options in addition to their already existing reporting options.
While those modifications are necessary, they are still occurring under the specter of the Department of Education discussing potential rollbacks to Title IX policies on reporting and investigating campus sexual assaults.
Still, the results remain promising. Not only is there a significant influx of reporting by students, they now have the information necessary to notify key contacts when they witness a possible assault.