Title IX Office debuts advanced online resource

The Title IX Office at the college has recently released a new website offering resources on sexual health and violence. The website, called SHARE, or Sexual Health/Assault Resources and Education, is designed to be a student-centered resource for information and support on Title IX and related topics.

Before the creation of SHARE, the only central website addressing sexual health and violence prevention was the official Title IX page on the Swarthmore website. This page, though an official representation of the Title IX Office, fell short of the office’s standards for online education. The old site was not designed in an intentionally student-friendly manner and read much like a page out of a policy book. The scope of the old site was limited to an overview of Title IX’s policies and sexual misconduct reporting.

The process of reworking the old website began in fall 2014 with the selection of the new Title IX Director, Kaaren Williamsen, who envisioned a friendly and welcoming website to discuss sensitive topics. According to Title IX Fellow Becca Bernstein, SHARE is modeled on the student-centered Title IX sites that peer institutes such as Stanford, Reed and Carleton use.

Students and faculty began working together on the design of SHARE in fall 2014. A team of students and a 10-person advisory group began meeting frequently to discuss changes in the old site. Bernstein and her colleague Title IX Fellow Abigail Henderson ’14 were responsible for much of the design. Henderson frequently surveyed students in Sharples about website content and layout. The entire process was centered around creating a site that will be easy for students to use and access, Anna Livia Chen ’17 said.

“We wanted the design to be clean, the information to be clear, and for it to not be an overwhelming or disheartening platform from which to get information,” Chen said. “This is especially important if you are a recent survivor considering the reporting process.”

The number one purpose of SHARE, according to Chen, was to create a straightforward resource surrounding Title IX issues. According to Bernstein, the old website was often difficult to navigate, and due to the number of recent changes in Title IX’s policies, much of the information was outdated or inapplicable.

“The whole point of [SHARE] is for it to be designed for students and so that they can get connected to information easily and in one place,” Bernstein said. “I think that when you talk to students about Title IX issues, there are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation and there is a lack of one space where all the resources lie.”

One key element of SHARE is the “Reporting and Response” page, which explicitly outlines the process of reporting sexual misconduct and defines the difference between filing a report and filing a complaint. By clarifying which processes involve law enforcement, the hope is that much of the fear surrounding the process of reporting incidents of sexual misconduct will dissipate and students will be more comfortable throughout the process of reporting an incident.

SHARE also allows students to report incidents of sexual misconduct online. Previously, students would have to report crimes by physically going into or calling the Title IX Office. Many survivors of sexual violence are uncomfortable with taking this step, and by providing the option of online reporting, the Title IX Office hopes to make the reporting process more accessible to students.

One issue with the old site was that it did little to clarify which resources are confidential.

“I was talking to a student earlier and she said, ‘my friends and I would debate about which resources are confidential on campus’,” Bernstein said. “It shouldn’t be a debate, you should just be able to go somewhere and know.”

Under the Resources and Support section of the new website, on-campus resources are clearly listed with explicit statements of what is confidential. The tab also provides contact information, hours, and descriptions of the services provided by a variety of different campus groups, including Public Safety, the Dean’s office, and various spiritual and religious services.

SHARE also includes information for family and friends of survivors and has interactive quizzes and videos covering topics such as consent and healthy dating. Although the Women’s Resource Center and Title IX Office hold workshops discuss these topics, the new online venue allows busy students to access information on their own time without the pressure of being in a social setting.

By creating a website that encompasses topics beyond just reporting incidents of sexual misconduct, the Title IX Office is attempting to reshape its image and reduce some of the negative connotations that are often attached to its focus on reporting incidents. Throughout the process of creating SHARE, the SHAPE collective, which stands for Supporting Healing, Awareness, and Personal Empowerment, emerged. According to Chen, SHAPE is an organization of students and faculty within the Title IX Office working to support healing and growth among students by expanding the office’s role on campus.

Moving from a policy-based site to an interactive student resource represents the emerging goal of Title IX and the SHAPE collective to promote more than just legal support but also resources to keep students informed and healthy.

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