Sexual Assault Teach-in Steering Committee speaks out

According to the Center for Public Integrity, campus sexual assault is common across the nation, yet widely under-addressed by institutions of higher learning. In contrast, as New York State's premier liberal arts college, Geneseo is proactively addressing sexual assault in the community. In doing so, Geneseo can provide national leadership in sexual assault prevention, which is consonant with its own mission, values and initiatives involving transformational learning, innovation and wide-ranging excellence. In the spring of 2010, Geneseo administration recognized the need to learn about sexual assault, specifically as it occurs on our own campus, and to consider revising campus policies and procedures. In the summer of 2010, the steering committee started planning programming for the 2010-2011 academic year. The first step was to conduct an anonymous campus-wide survey about sexual assault. Study results from spring 2010 confirmed that sexual assault is a problem at Geneseo, as it is elsewhere in the nation. The committee found that about 25 percent of the 1,700-student sample experienced some kind of behaviorally specific sexual assault at Geneseo. About 13.2 percent experienced more than one type of sexual assault such as sexual contact, sexual coercion, attempted rape or rape, and 18.3 percent had multiple experiences. In addition, about 15 percent of women and 8 percent of men in our Geneseo sample were severely sexually assaulted, meaning they experienced attempted or completed rape. Most students who identified as having been sexually assaulted did not report sexual assaults to campus staff.As a second step, the committee will conduct an intensive educational training program for selected students, staff and faculty. These individuals will attend nine training sessions throughout the fall and early spring semesters. Trainings will be an hour and a half long and will involve different activities with information provided in readings and discussions. Training topics include victim-blaming, sexual consent, definitions of assault, gender stereotypes and sexuality, the role of alcohol in sexual assault, social norms and recommended campus practices and procedures. Learning about these topics will prepare participants to facilitate constructive group discussions at the Sexual Assault Teach-In event, which will be held on March 6, 2011.  The third step will be the Sexual Assault Teach-In that all Geneseo campus members are welcome to attend. Through offering a workshop or presentation and engaging all attendees in discussion groups guided by trained facilitators, the committee's goal is to educate community members about sexual assault and the importance of becoming involved in solving this problem. The committee wants to inspire new ideas for education and prevention efforts and new options for responding to those who are affected by sexual assault.The committee hopes that following involvement in the SAT facilitator training, SAT event or both, community members will be educated and inspired to continue working together to combat campus sexual assault. The specific actions that may follow from the SAT have not yet been formulated, but the vision is for students to engage in activities including, but not limited to: developing additional educational programs, incorporating the topic within courses or existing events, writing about sexual assault in their classes or in public forums, holding panels or programs within the residence halls, coordinating peer support for victims involved with disciplinary proceedings and becoming involved in groups evaluating sexual assault policies, practices and procedures. There are doubtless many other innovative ways in which people might also take action. Please contact Melinda DuBois at 585-245-5736 or dubois@geneseo.edu or Jennifer Katz at katz@geneseo.edu for more information about the SAT.

The information presented in this article was submitted to The Lamron by the Sexual Assault Teach-in Steering Committee, comprised of Melinda DuBois, administrative director of health and counseling; Tamara Kenney, assistant dean of students; School of the Arts professor Melanie Blood; psychology professor Jennifer Katz; staff psychologist Gene Griffing and sophomore Sara Hirsch.