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I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Here is what's new this week in To Your Health, a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM, that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.
The increased prevention of sexual assaults on college campuses depends on improving student access to health care services and providing more support to encourage the reporting and adjudication of claims, finds a viewpoint and news story recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The JAMA news report finds an improved response by universities is needed because recent statistics suggest one in five female, undergraduate students experience an on-campus sexual assault. The report adds other research suggests about 80 percent of campus sexual assaults are unreported and as many as 89 percent of possible assailants are not held responsible.
While the JAMA news report finds more involvement by university health centers are a key to prevention, the story adds student access to forensic nurses or sexual assault nurse examiners either on campus — or at a nearby hospital — needs to be improved significantly.
Despite an array of available, comprehensive sexual assault prevention programs, the JAMA news report finds the adoption of these initiatives remains inconsistent across the nation's college campuses. The author writes (and we quote): 'Prevention programs don't seem to be standardized across college campuses, nor does there seem to be any consistent administrative role for campus health services in prevention program implementation' (end of quote).
The JAMA news story also notes more reporting of campus assaults might occur if students received clearer counsel regarding the confidentiality of medical records — especially in cases where mental health concerns are at issue. The author writes (and we quote): 'It is not always clear to students when and whether such personal information will be protected under medical privacy laws' (end of quote).
In an accompanying viewpoint, the authors write similar factors needed to improve campus sexual assault prevention include (and we quote): 'nurturing a respectful environment....ensuring fair and rigorous investigations, implementing appropriate sanctions for inappropriate behavior; and reintegrating survivors back into the academic community' (end of quote).
The viewpoint's authors challenge whether universities should initiate on-campus sexual assault investigations via similar internal adjudication processes used to assess other student misconduct issues, such as cheating or plagiarism. The viewpoint's authors find when colleges and universities do not create a distinct sexual assault investigative procedure (and we quote): 'this could result in investigations that may not be sensitive to the unique needs of sexual assault survivors, resulting in the failure to treat them with the proper dignity and respect' (end of quote).
The viewpoint's authors add the increasing number of repeat assailants in campus sexual assault cases suggests a need to change the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Currently, the authors find the Act makes it difficult for colleges to release the names of individuals sanctioned in campus sexual assault procedures to law enforcement. The authors note this reporting gap thwarts coordination that sometimes fosters repeated sexual assaults by the same person.
The viewpoint's authors conclude (and we quote): 'the magnitude of sexual assaults on college campuses and the severe harms caused demand a robust and coordinated response by the university and the criminal justice system' (end of quote).
Meanwhile, a link to a helpful website that discusses date rape (from the Office of Women's Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) is available within the 'related issues' section of MedlinePlus.gov's sexual assault health topic page.
A similar, helpful overview of date rape drugs (from the Office of Women's Health) also is available within the 'related issues' section of MedlinePlus.gov's sexual assault health topic page.
MedlinePlus.gov's sexual assault health topic page additionally provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. Links to relevant clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the 'clinical trials' section. You can sign up to receive updates about sexual assault as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.
To find MedlinePlus.gov's sexual assault health topic page please type 'sexual assault' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'sexual assault (National Library of Medicine).'
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