Univ. implements bystander intervention training to combat sexual assault

October 10, 2014

With investigations for Title IX allegations underway and the recent departure of Sexual Assaults Services and Prevention Specialist Sheila McMahon, on the basis of academic leave, the university’s policy toward victims of sexual assault has been in the spotlight recently. Student protesters assembled outside the Rose for the ceremonial lighting of the “Light of Reason,” duct tape covering their mouths, bearing poignant messages such as “It happens here.” Signs demanded the university “Shed light on the truth of sexual assault.”

In the wake of student protests, university efforts to combat the prevalence of sexual assault on campus continue to be implemented, such as bystander prevention training. According to Andrew Flagel, senior vice president for students and enrollment, “Bystander intervention training is currently the most recommended practice for reducing incidence of sexual assault and changing campus culture in relation to gender based violence.”

Initially introduced during the spring of 2014 term, the training program was held for a second time this past September. The program was implemented according to the recommendations of the Violence Against Women Act grant task force and is led by the Office of Prevention Services, a service created just over a year ago.

“Bystander intervention training has been widely embraced and encouraged by the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education that oversees enforcement of Title IX,” Flagel explained.

According to Flagel, between the two training sessions, approximately 70 students were in attendance, “meaning that there are about 70 qualified trainers on campus.” The Office of Prevention Services is currently working with these individuals to extend training to various clubs and organizations across campus.

Flagel attributes the rapid implementation of these programs to McMahon. Her current absence from the university has resulted in Brendan Weintraub ’16, an undergraduate student and staff assistant at the Office of Prevention Services, taking over responsibility for coordinating training sessions for student groups across campus.

Although The Hoot contacted Weintraub individually, Flagel compiled the responses for both himself and Weintraub in response to our inquiries.

Explaining the content of this training initiative, Flagel stated, “The best of these programs seek to engage community members as a support system for each other, offering students a way to try and defuse situations that might lead to sexual misconduct, making campus safer and better educating our students about these issues.”

Students may request bystander intervention training by going to the Office of Prevention Services website and clicking on the “Prevention and Education” tab.

“We want to make sure students feel comfortable intervening in situations that they may view as risky, and do so in the safest possible manner,” Flagel states.

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