Stopping sexual violence and harassment at UCM

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By JESSICA FRASER
Reporter

(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — As universities like Stanford and Vanderbilt deal with their own skeletons of rape, harassment and sexual abuse, UCM officials are looking for ways to stop on-campus violence before it starts. Despite the negative press attention surrounding sexual violence and harassment on college campuses, there are students, faculty and staff members at UCM working to support victims of sexual misconduct.

The UCM Office of Violence and Substance Abuse Prevention works with victims of sexual violence and harassment. Its Green Dot program also focuses on bystander intervention, which shows students how they can intervene if they see the potential for sexual misconduct.

“The mission of our office is to work with the campus and the community to help implement evidence informed practices for prevention of sexual assault, domestic violence (and) stalking – all of those things are called sexual misconduct under UCM’s policy,” said Amy Kiger, director of VSAP. “Every student can make a difference, every single one of us. So the first thing is to recognize that we all have a role to play, and that is what is so great about Green Dot because it gives students skills to intervene.”

Holly Weiss, VSAP violence prevention specialist, said at the heart of each Green Dot training session are the 3 D’s of bystander intervention: direct, delegate and distract. VSAP staff members teach students, faculty and staff how to prevent potential assaults by allowing them to choose methods that they feel comfortable with. Whether they decide to confront an attacker, reach out to a friend or distract an abuser so that their victim can get away, participants can stop sexual violence and harassment from taking place.

“Thankfully, most UCM students, faculty and staff will not be victims of assault or relationship violence or stalking and will not perpetrate,” Kiger said. “But most of us will know someone who has experienced this or could potentially experience it. We might see a situation that is risky, and so that’s why it’s important to teach all of us how to intervene, how to help to try to prevent situations, or to respond in a kind and caring and informed way if someone is hurt.”

As they learn about the signs of sexual misconduct and various techniques that can prevent on-campus violence, students can take the principles of the Green Dot program and apply them to their own lives. Alec Majino, president of the It’s On Us student organization at UCM, said VSAP is also committed to training the next generation of student leaders, which is why they brought the It’s On Us Campaign to UCM in the spring of 2016.

Majino said the It’s On Us campaign was started by the White House, spearheaded by Joe Biden, and seeks to inform people about sexual assault.

“We educate students about what sexual assault is and how individual people can help prevent it,” Majino said.“We also try to get as many people as possible to take the pledge.”

Majino said the It’s On Us pledge is a commitment to recognizing and identifying the signs of sexual assault, and intervening in situations that can lead to sexual violence. He said It’s On Us student leaders are dedicated to creating a safe environment for students, faculty and staff where sexual misconduct is not tolerated.

“Bystander intervention promotes a culture on campus that does not accept sexual harassment or violence,” Majino said. “If more people intervene in more situations, then other people are less likely to commit sexual harassment or violence at UCM.”

Kiger said in addition to advocacy, training and supporting student organizations, VSAP works with UCM employees to gain a better understanding of sexual violence and harassment on campus. She said that as VSAP works to prevent sexual misconduct on campus, Title IX coordinators focus on the legal implications of sexual discrimination by informing students of their rights and providing victims with federally mandated accommodations.

“What’s different under Title IX is (that) there is a much heavier focus on victim support…so there’s a lot more emphasis on that today than there used to be, making sure people are OK,” said Rick Dixon, employee relations specialist and deputy Title IX coordinator.

Weiss said that Green Dot wants people to know they don’t have to be heroes to participate in the fight to prevent sexual violence.

“We don’t want people to think that they have to be superheroes in this movement, but that it can be small steps,” Weiss said. “Very small things can help reduce violence or a culture of violence on this campus.”

Students who are interested in bystander intervention training can participate in VSAP’s National Day of Training Sept. 18 or take part in their Student Leadership Training from Nov. 5-6. New undergraduate, transfer and graduate students can take Haven, UCM’s mandatory online course on sexual violence and harassment prevention.