student advocate: group in casual discussion

Community cultures that are protective against sexual assault will happen when people—students, faculty, staff, and administrators—come together and actively work to make our communities safer and more supportive to people of all identities, including survivors. This is hard and takes effort, but it is possible. We can start by becoming aware of and acknowledging the reality of sexual assault, talking about it more openly, and strategically advocating for prevention efforts. A huge component of doing this involves becoming aware of intersectionality and the ways in which people living at the margins (e.g., LGBTQ+, people of color, undocumented students) are statistically more likely to experience both interpersonal violence and barriers to accessing supportive services. A good way to address this is to ensure that members of marginalized communities have access to someone whom they can bring concerns.

Become a trauma-informed community

Another key piece of creating cultures that are protective against sexual assault—and interpersonal violence across the board—is to create a culture that’s trauma-informed. Here are some essentials that create the foundation of a trauma-informed space:

  • Awareness of and attention to vicarious traumatization and its impact (essentially, how hearing about the trauma of others affects those listening to traumatic stories)
  • Commitment to transparency, predictability, and accessibility
  • A willingness to support the agency of the person who has experienced harm

Here are some resources that can help with the creation of a trauma-informed organization:

Incorporating trauma-informed practice into professional curricula: The Philadelphia Project

Also, take a look at the Adverse Childhood Experiences study to understand the prevalence and impact of potentially trauma-inducing experiences.

At the end of the day, the responsibility for creating cultures where people are less likely to experience harm falls on all of us, all the time. We each have something to bring to the work, and our invitation for you is that you identify how you can most contribute to the culture that we are hoping to cocreate. 

Ashford Resources
Get help or find out moreArticle sources

Association of American Universities. (2015, September 3). AAU Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct (2015). Retrieved from

Bedsider Birth Control Support Network. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (April 27, 2014). STD & HIV screening recommendations. Retrieved from

Ciolkowski, L. (2016, October 15). Rape culture syllabus. Retrieved from

Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). Glossary of terms. Retrieved from

Krebs, C. Lindquist, C., Warner, T., Fisher, B., et al. (2007, December). The Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Survey. Retrieved from

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. (n.d.). Policy. Retrieved from

Sexual Literacy. (n.d.). The column. Retrieved from

Sexual Literacy. (n.d.). Why sexual literacy. Retrieved from

Sinozich, S. & Langton, L. (2014, December). Rape and sexual assault victimization among college-age females, 1995–2013. US Department of Justice. Retrieved from

United States Department of Education. (2017, September 22). Office for Civil Rights: Sex discrimination, policy guidance. Retrieved from

US Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women. (2017, June 16). Sexual assault. Retrieved from

US Department of Education. (2015, October 15). Title IX and sex discrimination. Retrieved from

Wong, A. (2016, January 26). The problem with data on campus sexual assault. Atlantic. Retrieved from


Content contributed by:

Ramsey is the community advocate at a New England university's sexual assault prevention and response office and a former educator, administrator of nonprofits, and yoga teacher. In the past, she worked at Casa Myrna, Boston’s largest domestic violence shelter and support organization, where she provided counseling to people impacted by interpersonal violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking. As community advocate, she has the opportunity to sit with people as they unpack their belief systems in service of reducing the likelihood of causing identity-based harm.

Amanda is the health educator at a New England University in the health promotion office. She received her Master of Public Health degree from Boston University in 2013. She has been working in higher education for over six years and has a passion for working with emerging adults around sexual health education. Amanda is a certified Koru Mindfulness teacher and enjoys spreading skills and knowledge of mindfulness and meditation across her university campus.

Ariana is a fourth-year college student studying the history of science and women and gender studies. She loves learning about sexual health and thinking about the intersections between sexuality education and sexual assault prevention. Originally from Juneau, Alaska, she also loves hiking and other outdoor activities.