Toolkit for Creation of a Sexual Violence Response Resource Website

State University of New York

Taras Kufel                Jeffrey Rosen                Andrea Stagg                        Joseph Storch

Web Design &         Web Designer                Associate Counsel                Associate Counsel

Content Manager

This paper provides policy and technical information on developing and sharing information on available on- and off-campus resources for sexual and interpersonal violence response with your college community.

The idea to develop this SUNY-wide Website came from an activist and advocate who was part of the SUNY Chancellor’s Temporary Working Group on Continual Improvement to Sexual Violence Prevention Policies.  We had worked hard to develop policies, and the thought was that the resources in these policies should be accessible to students (and other members of the college community) in the way that they access content, and not just in our handbooks and policy compilations.  We took that message to heart.  In addition to every SUNY college developing its own website, we endeavored to create a mobile site that could serve as the landing spot where users could find information about resources on-campus, off-campus, near a campus, or wherever they may be in New York state.

The initial idea from the Working Group was to develop an app with this information. We reached out to professional app developers and received advice that this should be a mobile website, not an app. We share that here since it is important advice. App developers said that people will download apps, but not remember where they are among dozens of apps. It is very difficult to update the backend database on an app, unlike a mobile website that can be updated continuously. They also said that it is labor intensive to develop the same app for IOS, Android, Windows, etc. while a mobile website can serve all users.

We decided to use a short URL and, after advice from students and professionals, chose www.suny.edu/violence-response/, also accessible via http://response.suny.edu and http://savr.suny.edu/.  SAVR stands for Sexual Assault and Violence Response.

Another thing we learned from the activists and advocates on our Working Group was the importance of ordering information in ways that work for victims and survivors, not for policy makers.  Colleges have traditionally developed policies and ordered them in ways that make sense for the policy.  Another advocate pointed out that victims and survivors of sexual and interpersonal violence first need a number to call and disclose confidentially.  They then need information about medical and counseling assistance they can access immediately.  Then they should be informed about accommodations available to them on campus.  Then we should cover reporting to law enforcement and campus conduct.  First the immediate needs, and only later the pressing but not emergency needs.  After hearing that point, we decided to re-order the applicable policies into a “Maslow’s Hierarchy” style where we put the most necessary and urgent information first.  

To develop resources for victims and survivors, the Working Group developed three policies applicable at all SUNY institutions, the Sexual Violence Victim/Survivor Bill of Rights, the Sexual Violence Response Policy, and the Options for Confidentially Disclosing Sexual Violence.  The idea behind these policies is that they should be “fill-in-the-blank” for our campuses.  The same logic can apply to private and public colleges across the United States.  The policies can be found on the Working Group Website:  http://system.suny.edu/sexual-violence-prevention-workgroup/policies/. 

On Campus Resources:

After developing the policies, we turned to some of the technical aspects required to gather information.  To gather information about on campus resources, we crowd-sourced by sending an email to each SUNY campus with a link to a Google spreadsheet.  This was an important step for a large system (there are about five dozen SUNY campuses), as it would have been impossible for us to research these resources at each campus, and the project might have collapsed.  Instead, campus colleagues quickly began to fill out the document.  We asked:

·       Campus Name

·       First Stop- Website You Want a Victim or Bystander to Violence to Visit First

·       Do You Have an Anonymous Reporting Mechanism? Yes or No

·       If Yes, Anonymous Reporting Website

·       If Yes, Anonymous Reporting Phone Number

·       Title IX Coordinator

·       TIXC Address

·       TIXC Phone

·       TIXC Website

·       TIXC Email 1

·       TIXC Email 2

·       University Police/Campus Security Name

·       UP/Sec Address

·       UP/Sec Phone

·       UP/Sec Website Address

·       UP/Sec Email Address

·       Counseling Center Name

·       Counseling Address

·       Counseling Phone

·       Counseling Website

·       Counseling Email Address                

·       Local external resource for victim services or crisis intervention) - whether you have an MOU with that entity or simply refer students to it. Resource Name

·       Local Resource Phone

·       Local Resource Website

·       Local Resource 2 name

·       Local Resource 2 Phone

·       Local Resource 2 Website                

·       Name and Contact information (phone and email) of person who filled in this survey

We then exported the spreadsheet into Excel and converted the data into a Json file to populate a “Campus Resources” page.  We use a drop-down list of campuses that displays the On-Campus and Off-Campus resources.  All of this is driven by jQuery.

Community Resources:

To gather information on outside resources, we reached out to the New York State Department of Health, the State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, NYS Coalition Against Sexual Assault, NYS Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and several LGBTQ* advocates that we have worked with.  We received a lot of good resources and combined them into a spreadsheet, initially organized by tie to campus (some resources serve multiple campus sites). We also reached out to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. RAINN has its own database, and their tech team worked with SUNY’s developers to incorporate that database into what we were building in New York. Similarly, we worked with the staff of LawHelpNY and probono.net to incorporate legal resources into the database for victims and survivors who need help navigating the criminal justice and other processes. They generously gave us assistance and access to their database.

While the community resources were initially organized by campus, this led both to double counting for campuses close together and significant holes for resources far away from campuses. We re-organized the data by geolocation and used the geolocation of the resource as a tie to whichever campuses it was closest to. This allowed us to eliminate duplicates while keeping resources that, while not close to any campus, are still available for students when they are home or for distance learning students who live in those communities.

For single campus institutions, this data collection is much easier.  Large systems may want to take the steps listed above.

From the beginning, the intention was to make this a mobile-site so that it was accessible to students even when they are not in front of their computers. To do so, we designed the site with mobile users in mind.  We also made sure that the phone numbers were clickable to make calls from a smartphone and email addresses would open their email program.

Beta Testing the Site:

The next step in our process was to make sure that the site worked for college students.  We held several in person and electronic webinars where we invited students from colleges across the SUNY system to ask them what they liked and didn’t like about the site.  Dozens of students participated in some form in these feedback sessions and provided all sorts of comments.  

Frankly, they had some of the best ideas of the whole process.  We did the webinars through Webex, and gave a brief presentation of what the site looked like in beta.  Then the students started to respond with many of the ideas coming in the chat, while others were spoken over the phone.  We found that it was hard to initially get students to speak on the phone, so we took to “calling on” certain campuses where we knew the professionals very well, and those professionals then engaged the students.  Once they got started, the feedback rolled in.

Based upon the feedback received from students, we developed the “search by zipcode” tool, confidentiality and 24/7 badges (more below), expanded certain information on statewide resources, and considered whether or not to add photos or graphics to the site (comments from students were mixed on that). We also received comments on color scheme, order of resources, and the look and feel of the site.

As we made changes, we continued to run them by students wherever we could find them. All consensus comments from students were adopted and implemented in the site. We kept track of all comments to ensure none were lost.

Study Abroad and International Students:

The main page also includes information tailored for international students, students studying overseas, and students traveling outside of New York but within the United States. For international students, there is a list of embassies. For students studying overseas, there is a link to the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country of study. Students outside of New York can access the Justice Department’s list of local resources from the Office on Violence Against Women.

Immigration and Visa Information:

        Concurrent with development of this resource site, the State University of New York worked with a team of attorneys and higher education professionals from several institutions to develop a document that can aid documented and undocumented immigrants in understanding their visa and immigration options if they are a victim or survivor or sexual or interpersonal violence.  The resource was translated into several languages (with more to be added) and developed so that institutions can use a Google Doc or Excel tool to customize the document for their campus.  This resource is likewise available to non-SUNY schools to assist students.

How Students Search the Page:

One of the suggestions we received from student reviewers was to not limit the search to campuses, but to also have zip code and mapping searches. We hardcoded latitude/longitude coordinates for campuses and resources in the data.  We give the user the option to view off-campus resources near campuses or from an entered zip code (we use Google API to geocode coordinates from the entered zip code).  Using formula to check for distances between the two latitude/longitude coordinates and allowing the user to choose the distance (default set at 25 miles), we display the results.  We are currently beta testing a mapping feature using a Google Maps API, and expect to launch that in the near future.

Using this method, the site is not only usable by SUNY students, but by other college students and by community members in the state. The community resources are not limited to college students. Using a zip code search and soon a mapping feature will also allow for immediate access to resources even when students are home or traveling.

Exit Site:

Several outside advocates who reviewed the site said we should have a quick exit button (sometimes colloquially called a “Boss Button”) so a victim can quickly leave the page. We used jQuery/JavaScript to develop an orange Exit Site button that goes to www.google.com while deleting the history. This is why it was important to have all content on one page as well as no anchor links within the page (all in-page jumps are achieved using jQuery). When clicking the Exit Site button, a function is called hiding the content of the current page and replacing the current page with the Google homepage (removing it from the browser’s history). The use of the back button will go to the page the user was viewing prior to visiting the response site.

Confidentiality and 24/7: 

Several students and professionals suggested that we mark resources as confidential and/or available 24 hours per day.  We quickly agreed, but there is no comprehensive list of such services and their status.  We went back to crowdsourcing.  We tagged each on-campus and off-campus resource with a unique identifier and had that identifier temporarily display on the page.  We developed a form that would allow managers of each resource to designate whether it was confidential and/or 24/7 (as well as pointing out any other updates required) and sent that to SUNY professionals and through NYSCASA, NYSCADV, DOH and OPDV to our community resources.  We developed two small graphics for confidential and 24/7, added columns to the spreadsheet with binary 1 or 0 for confidential and 24/7 tied to the appropriate resources, and populated the columns with the survey responses.

Additional Resources:

Below the resource dropdown, we added policy information regarding affirmative consent, amnesty for victims and bystanders reporting sexual and interpersonal violence, the Bill of Rights, SUNY’s response policy, and confidentiality information. It was important that these documents be accessible, but that they not drown out the resource search. We place the information on the page but defaulted hiding the sections.  We used basic JavaScript/jQuery hide/show functionality to view the sections when clicking on the section titles so that the site would still load quickly on one page and would not trigger a second page.  We also made jumps to anchor links using JavaScript/jQuery.  (see Exit Site, above)

TECHNICAL ASPECTS

The design was simple and functional. We wanted to keep the site to a single page without anchors to allow to for ease of  “hiding” the site using the “Exit Site” button (see above).  We used JavaScript/jQuery for the page functionality and parsing the data (from JSON files) about the campuses and resources.

We launched the site in August 2015 in time for our students’ return to campus. SUNY employees can publicize the link on their web sites, during trainings and educational programs, through social media, and more.

Use and Attribution:

As a note, everything that SUNY has created on this site, and all accompanying policies, may be freely used for non-commercial purposes by higher education institutions and organizations.  Please credit State University of New York where appropriate.

Database:

As part of the process, we pledged to make our database of off campus resources public so that state agencies, community organizations and other colleges could access the database and create their own resources for New Yorkers without “reinventing the wheel.”  A copy of the database may be accessed at this link.

With Thanks:

        We are deeply grateful to our partners at the New York State Department of Health, the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence for providing the seed information to develop the off campus resource database. We are also grateful to the Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN), LawHelpNY and Probono.net for providing additional database resources and supporting this project. We could not have done this without full participation by every SUNY campus providing on campus information, checking that information at each stage, and gathering students and professionals to provide feedback to strengthen the site. We are thankful for the support and feedback of the Offices of Governor Cuomo and Senator Gillibrand, as well as all of the outside advocates and experts who came to the table to provide feedback. A significant amount of database development was coordinated by Jen Tobin in the Office of General Counsel, and we are thankful for the assistance of colleagues and leadership in the SUNY offices of Communications and New Media, University Life, University Police, and General Counsel for their support and assistance. Finally, thank you to Libby Post, political activist and President of Communication Services, who initiated the idea of this service for our students, and to all of the members of the Chancellor's Working Group for their dedication and service.  

We wish you the best of luck as you create resources for victims and survivors.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be helpful.

Last Updated: August 2015