One in four women are victims of sexual assault while they are college students, and even more disturbingly, only one in ten of these incidents is reported. To work against these troubling statistics, colleges seeking to promote safety and deter sexual assault have focused on designing spaces that encourage bystander intervention.
Dartmouth College has accomplished this with Brace Commons in the East Wheelock Cluster. Once an empty, potentially dangerous space, Brace Commons has been thoughtfully transformed into an integrated, community space through creative design elements and clever placement.
The Brace Commons designers set out to promote the formation of vibrant communities in a formerly empty pass through space in part to help prevent sexual assault. Brace Commons’ proximity to vital resources and services in East Wheelock leads to a constant flow of diverse, interesting students and staff who casually interact with one another. Brace Commons serves as the vital third space for East Wheelock, and contributes to a sense of fulfillment and comfort in being a member of a community. In addition, this strong community identity promotes safety and deters sexual assault. Bystanders are more likely to interfere in a sexual assault case when the victim or perpetrator is someone that they know. The creation of community in Brace Commons facilitates familiarity between fellow East Wheelock residents, and leads to increased bystander intervention.
The following pages detail how Brace Commons became a space that promotes the development of community and safety. While the site will note some interesting design features specific to Brace Commons, this flow chart generalizes the lessons learned from Brace Commons so they can be applied to other similar campus spaces: