Watch the Link Voices documentary, "It Happened Here," a film exploring sexual assault on campuses through the testimonials of five survivors who transform their experiences into a springboard for change, on KCET on Wednesday, April 19 at 9:00 p.m.
Maybe you’ve walked by colorful shirts hung along a clothesline on a college campus and stopped to read the stories. Perhaps you’re familiar with Take Back the Night, an annual march to raise awareness and empower women. Across the country, university students and staff are working to respond to the issue of sexual assault.
Sexual violence is a serious problem with complex solutions plaguing college campuses across the country. More than 11% of college students experience rape or sexual assault and only 1 out of every 6 victims receive assistance for victims services.
To be comprehensive, sexual violence prevention strategies need to address the individual, relationships, community, and society, according to the Center for Disease Control. Whether it’s through student activism, the involvement of men, discussions on consent, or new ways of healing, these universities are getting it right.
State University of New York at Binghamton’s program, 20:1, was developed with a high level of student input. “It’s a grassroots program,” according to coordinator/co-founder Dara Raboy-Picciano. “We did focus groups to find out what would work on our campus.”
Officially founded in 2005, 20:1 has been recognized by both state and national departments as a best practice model for sexual assault prevention. Raboy-Picciano says students often tell her it was the most memorable part of freshman orientation.
“It’s actually become a way to intervene,” Raboy-Picciano says. She’s been told that students have used the name of the program, “20:1,” as a preventative measure in high-risk situations. Even used jokingly, remembering and then bringing up the program shows that it has stuck with students, she explains.
The name 20:1 was chosen by Binghamton students to reflect the statistic that 20 women per hour are sexually assaulted in the U.S. Greek life members, student athletes, and the general student population participate in the sessions.
To personalize the program, students learn in small groups, allowing them to participate in interactive scenarios, games, and activities. 20:1 even covers cultural beliefs and biases related to sexual assault. The program now offers internships in both Peer Education and Bystander Intervention for students interested in getting more involved.
FIRE Place and Sexual Assault Peer Educators
The FIRE Place at Western Michigan University is not only warm and welcoming, but also a powerful force on campus. FIRE, which stands for Fighting Ignorance and Rape through Education, is a resource and support center that addresses sexual assault, bias incidents, and other forms of violence.
“FIRE’s vision is to create a campus culture that actively and effectively responds to sexual assault,” says Mosley. WMU’s program seeks to address the issue on both a campus and a societal level, she says, addressing the trauma that comes with sexual violence as well as the larger causes.
The FIRE sexual assault peer educators, a group of current university students, promote an aware and responsive campus environment. These peer educators foster open discussions with fellow students about topics such as consent, rape myths and the relationship between assault and alcohol use.
Students may also apply for an internship at the FIRE Place, which gives them the opportunity to be even more involved with activism and education related to sexual assault. “Students interning in the program are required to create new initiatives, literature, and programming,” Mosley says.
The FIRE Place welcomes survivors and witnesses, allies and artists, and any students interested in getting involved with this issue. The program began in 2006 as an initiative for men, but has since expanded to both genders, demonstrating that men and women can work together to prevent sexual violence.
Loyola Marymount University, a Jesuit institution in Southern California, is the home of LMU CARES. The program was initiated by a group of students who approached student affairs and requested a comprehensive program to address sexual assault at the Catholic university.
Briana Maturi, Special Assistant to the Senior VP of Student Affairs, says that a particular point stood out during her conversations with the Director of College Programs at the Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center. “You need to build empathy,” Maturi says. “People need to care personally about this topic.”
Maturi engages students in conversation about consent, which she defines as clear, coherent, willing, and ongoing. The program has expanded over time to include topics such as bystander intervention and intercultural dialogue.
Amore Alvarenga, a recent LMU grad and former Resident Advisor, found that her residents benefited greatly from the education. “While I was an RA for freshman women, a student reported a stalker that her roommate had,” she says. “She told me that she was able to identify the signs of a stalker because of the LMU CARES training.”
LMU CARES really does listen to student feedback, Alvarenga explains. After receiving a number of requests for a sexual assault survivors’ group, the former LMU CARES intern approached Maturi in the fall semester of 2016 to develop one. “She was so supportive about creating this student resource,” Alvarenga says. “Survivors now have yet another on-campus resource.”
BeVocal, a program through the University of Texas, was launched in April 2014 to empower UT students across fifteen different campuses.
“Our programs focus on education about consent, healthy masculinity, and intervening in potentially harmful situations through the innovative BeVocal initiative,” says Kathryn Redd, the Associate Director for Prevention and Outreach at the University of Texas at Austin.
Rather than solely addressing the aftermath of sexual assault, according to Redd, the program is meant to be preventative. “We utilize best practices in the field and are devoted to preventing harmful behaviors from happening in the first place,” she says.
The program was created in response to the White House Task Force on sexual assault, which said that bystander intervention programs were one of the most beneficial ways to prevent sexual assault. It was developed for two years through the work of staff and students retreats, focus groups, and subcommittees.
Bruin Consent Coalition
Students at UCLA lead the way as activists who supports their peers. Bruin Consent Coalition, formerly known as 7000 in Solidarity: A Campaign Against Sexual Assault, has updated its name due to feedback to be more inclusive to the diverse student population and survivors of sexual assault.
“BCC has collaborated with various student organizations to better understand how to improve resources and make them accessible to survivors of all identities,” says Yong-Yi Chiang, Bruin Consent Coalition Co-Director.
“BCC has become a space for survivors to heal through advocacy,” says Chiang. Bruin Consent Coalition aims to “promote consensual sex, effective bystander intervention, and access to University resources that support survivors of sexual assault,” according to its Facebook page.
UCLA’s CARE Program, which provides confidential resources to survivors, also features something unique: Yoga as Healing. Also known as Trauma-Informed Yoga, the classes give survivors a space to heal through movement and self-expression. The sessions are sensitive to triggers and feature empowerment-based language.