Last modified: Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Collaborations are key to preventing sexual assault
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 21, 2010
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- With parties and end-of-year celebrations picking up, students and staff at Indiana University are engaging in multiple efforts to reduce the risk of sexual assault, including peer education, public outreach and an increased emphasis on intervening when friends put themselves at risk.
"Sexual assault is a serious problem across America's colleges and universities, and Indiana University is no exception," said Dean of Students Harold "Pete" Goldsmith. "The excellent work being done by RAISE, Safe Sisters, the Sexual Assault Crisis Service and other campus organizations is making a difference in raising awareness and supporting victims. Together we are sending a clear message that everyone has a role to play in eliminating sexual assaults on college campuses."
This month, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, marked the first meeting of a new organization of fraternity members aimed at reducing the risk of sexual assault. It also brought campus recognition for a three-year-old assault prevention program involving sorority members and a new education program that explores myths and misconceptions about sexual assault.
Recent initiatives include collaboration in creation of a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), spearheaded by Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Gaal and launched in August 2009. The initiative includes the establishment of a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program at Bloomington Hospital. IU Bloomington, through a grant from the Parents Fund administered by the Office of the Dean of Students, will help fund the training of nurses and nurse practitioners to participate in the SANE program.
Last month, Gaal's office sponsored an education series titled "Blame It On The Alcohol? The Truths, Myths and Laws of Sexual Assault." The series included an interactive presentation by students exploring misconceptions about sexual assault and the ways that alcohol and drug use can inhibit clear communication, along with a legal discussion by sex crimes prosecutor Rebecca Veidlinger. The project also distributed 3,000 "got consent?" wallet cards with contact information for sexual assault services, paid for posters with the message that "only yes means yes" installed in IU buses, and produced public service audio and video announcements. The video can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blJbXZ6_2ro.
"Blame It On The Alcohol" was developed in collaboration with the student group Raising Awareness of Interactions in Sexual Encounters (RAISE), the IU School of Social Work, the Women's Student Association, the IU Panhellenic Association, Safe Sisters and the IU Sexual Assault Crisis Service at the IU Health Center. The program, presented in campus residence halls, sororities and fraternities, won the 2010 Leadership in Personal Safety Award presented by the IU Bloomington Commission on Personal Safety and the Office for Women's Affairs.
The new fraternity organization, called Fraternities Reducing Assault Together, seeks to build on informal risk-management programs and practices at IU fraternity houses. Representatives from each fraternity will take part in training to learn to identify and intervene in situations that could lead to sexual assault at parties and other house activities.
It joins Safe Sisters, established in 2007, in which members from each IU sorority are designated and trained to share information about sexual assault and to provide intervention, help and support for victims. They meet monthly to discuss issues and learn from each other. Safe Sisters, a joint program of Sexual Assault Crisis Services and the IU Bloomington Panhellenic Association, this month received the 2010 Campus Program Award from the Dean of Students office.
Past efforts to prevent sexual assault focused largely on individual behavior, trying to make sure students understood the meaning of consent, the importance of clear communication in sexual encounters, and the actions they can take to reduce their personal risk. These efforts have been effective in conveying that the campus takes these situations seriously. Now, campus officials say, there is an increased emphasis on encouraging students to intervene in potentially risky situations. Students in Safe Sisters and Fraternities Reducing Assault Together, for example, learn effective ways to step in when they witness a situation that could lead to sexual assault -- for example, a man being overly sexually aggressive or a woman appearing uncomfortable about her date's advances.
Campus offices are also making an effort to acknowledge the reality of sexual assault in same-sex relationships and to provide support and encouragement for its victims, who may be hesitant to report.
IU's Sexual Assault Crisis Service, part of Counseling and Psychological Services and located at the IU Health Center, provides crisis intervention, counseling and educational programming related to sexual assault. There is no charge for the services, which include advocacy and assistance with medical and legal referrals. For more information, call 812-855-5711 or see https://healthcenter.indiana.edu/departments/sacsmain.html.