Blog Implications of the #MeToo Movement for Academia

Gender Responsive Budgeting and the #MeToo Movement: Seeking Solutions to Sexual Violence on College Campuses in America

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by Shilpa Viswanath:

In September 2018, as part of the National Campus Awareness Month, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) situated in the United States Department of Justice, published survey statistics on sexual violence on American college campuses. Unsurprisingly, young women are victims of the highest rates of dating violence and sexual assault. According to the statistics, in 2017, one in 10 teens reported being physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend and, one in 5 young women were sexually assaulted while they were in college.

Researchers, activists and journalists have significantly studied the risk factors of sexual victimization and intervention outcomes on college campuses, this blog post explores the administrative and budgeting challenges of implementing policies to prevent sexual violence on college campuses.  In this commentary, I argue on behalf of budgeting for sexual violence, not just exclusively on college campuses but, also earlier on in schools and later on in the workplace. While objective policy reports and strong legislations are an essential pre-requisite, mandatory budgeting for the implementation and sustenance of these policy solutions and legislations is imperative. 

In the recent decades federal programs and state laws have ensured steady funding to programs targeted at preventing sexual violence on American campuses. For instance, the OVW currently administers 25 grant programs authorized by the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and subsequent legislation. The OVW’s campus program claims to have awarded more than $131 million to colleges and universities since, 1998 to help them improve their prevention and response efforts. These programs are designed to develop the nation’s capacity to reduce domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking by strengthening services to victims and holding offenders accountable The OVW even performs evaluations of the effectiveness of its campus grants and qualitatively measures successful outcomes

However, despite OVW’s efforts we know that funding alone doesn’t reduce the incidence of sexual assault.  There is evidence that colleges and universities that have received federal grant money are being increasingly investigated for Title XI violations. What then is the solution? 

Scope and circumstances resulting in sexual violence occur much before female students enter college campuses. Sexual violence is rampant across middle and high schools in America, and the statistics are staggeringly disturbing. 

K-12 school infrastructure in the United States is grossly ill-equipped to combat sexual violence, neither are there policies, nor is there streamlined government funding to middle and high schools. 

In addition, the very expanse of American school and college education is mindboggling.  According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) there are some 139,874 elementary and secondary schools and 7,201 post-secondary institutions as of 2016. From an administrative standpoint it would be unrealistic for the OVW to consistently administer and evaluate grant money to all these institutions. How then, do American schools and colleges wage warfare against proliferating sexual abuse on campus? The answer might be in Gender Responsive Budgeting.  

What is Gender Responsive Budgeting?

Public administration scholars argue that: social and economic structural differences between men and women cause marked differences in the impact of government resource allocation and expenditure especially, in sectors such as public health, public education, public transport and public childcare. Structural differences between men and women refer to: women earning and saving less at interrupted intervals, women being over-represented in the unpaid care economy, women having discontinuous work histories and, women disproportionately being victims of sexual violence. Hence, budget statements which are presented as ‘neutral’ financial aggregates can hardly be unbiased or impartial if the revenue and expenditure decisions have differential impacts on men, women, transgendered, disabled and minorities. 

Recognizing these inherent discrepancies in resource allocation, close to 80 countries around the world have implemented gender responsive budgeting at the federal, state or local levels since, 1985. Yet, the United States, despite its poor ranking on gender parity has remained agnostic to gender responsive budgeting and has refused to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) – a landmark international bill that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world.

To fight sexual violence on college campuses, institutions might have to start accounting, acknowledging and appropriating resources for sexual abuse earlier in the education pipeline. The government might also have to mandatorily require budgeting for the prevention of sexual violence in both public and private sector organizations. It is time that school districts, state and the federal government recognize that the ‘experience’ of formal education is different for girls and women in America. To create a gender-neutral learning environment, we need to budget for the (obvious) incidence of sexual violence earlier on. 

Shilpa will be presenting her research on Gender Responsive Budgeting along with gender scholars Dr. Helisse Levine and Dr. Meghna Sabharwal at the ASPA 2019 National Conference in Washington D.C. If you happen to be at the conference this March 8-12th, do stop by to learn more about Gender Responsive Budgeting. 

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About the author:

Shilpa Viswanath
Ph.D Candidate at Rutgers University

Shilpa Viswanath is a Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers University – Newark. Her doctoral thesis looks at Public Sector Unionism in New Jersey and is being co-advised by Dr. Norma Riccucci and Dr. Stephanie Newbold . Shilpa is closely associated with American Society for Public Administration’s – Section for Women in Public Administration (SWPA). In fall 2019, Shilpa will begin teaching at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse as an Assistant Professor of Public Administration.