W&L Brings in the Bystander
Washington and Lee University plans to pilot a Bringing in the Bystander booster program for sophomores this April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“We are going to try it out going into fraternities and sororities and sophomore housing, like the theme houses, and talk to people in their own space, giving them a chance to talk to us and break into small group discussions,” Alice Moore, President of Speak said.
The booster will hopefully launch in the fall and be an addition to the training that takes place during Orientation week for First Year Students. Speak members also help run the trainings for the first year in consultation with the University’s counseling and health programs.
“It looks at particular situations here at W&L that students have told us about. It utilizes a combination of staff facilitators, student facilitators that Dr. Bowler and I trained,” Jan Kaufman of the Office of Health Promotion said.
Research has shown that the first year of college, specifically the first six weeks can be the highest risk for sexual misconduct and this is why Kaufman and the University believe in training from the very beginning.
“From day one as an institution we are saying to students we take this seriously and we feel that we are a community,” Kaufman said. “And as a community member, everyone has a role to play, and we want students to know that if they see situations that don’t feel right, are troubling that we as a institution expect them to check in with someone.”
With 1 in 5 women experiencing some type of sexual assault before they leave college, it is important to know the resources available on Washington and Lee University’s campus.
The main contact to file a report of sexual misconduct is Lauren Kozack, the Title IX Officer.
“I help provide remedies for someone through remedies-based resolution, if we are not going through a disciplinary process. So I can enact different supportive and protective measures,” Kozack said.
Some of these remedies include changing a students housing, class schedule, work schedule, or filing protective orders.
The Health Center and Project Horizon also work together to provide survivors of sexual misconduct with the support they need. The University has a counselor on call 24/7. All of these resources are available through the new Live Safe App. The app also allows you to virtually walk home friends and make reports to Public Safety and the police.
To provide support to survivors and awareness, Noelle Rutland worked with Project Horizon, The Shepherd Program and the Bonner Program to complete the “Facing Sexual Violence in Rockbridge County” project.
Rutland was the project manager for the “story telling initiative” that interviewed individuals from the local universities and the community at large who experienced sexual violence.
“I think people see Washington and Lee a lot of time as this really idealistic place where this sort of thing doesn’t occur and I really wanted to highlight that this issue is occurring in the lives of people you would never expect, and so it was important to me to give voice to survivors or at least empower them to use their own voices to tell the story of what had happened to them in whatever way they were most comfortable with,” Rutland said.
Volunteers were paired to write the survivors stories, which were published as a book last Spring Term. Rutland plans to do another printing of the book in the near future.
In addition to providing bystander training, Speak serves to support survivors. Each year, they host Rock against Rape, which is a concert to support Project Horizon, and Speak Week, which centers on Take Back the Night.
“It’s a chance for survivors of sexual assault, or other sexual misconduct, to come out in like a safe and nonjudgmental environment to share their stories. I think it’s really good both for them, like I’ve shared a story this year and last year, and I think that it’s really empowering to like be able to be honest about what your story is, and you know where you come from and feel supported by the community,” Moore said. “But then I also think it is helpful for people in the audience to see their friends, their classmates and see that they’ve actually experienced some of the things they are fighting to prevent.”
In addition to Speak, another organization has been founded this year to promote a positive sexual culture and prevent sexual assault.
Advocates for an Alternative Atmosphere (AAA) has started with eleven students trained to make “small tweaks to the environment that make it a safer place to be,” Kaufman said.
They have begun trainings with First Year students to address reading signals and the myths of miscommunication. They also are creating spaces in dorm lounges and at parties that allow for conversation that are not bed rooms.
“When people have a separate space signals are more clear and that can reduce sexual assault,” AAA member Catherine Ahmad said.
Sexual misconduct on college campuses has become a national concern, and the University is working to add and improve resources to reduce cases.
“I found that the administration honestly truly does care about this issue and wants to make a difference. So I do think we have a long way to go, but the right people are in charge right now to make it happen,” Rutland said.
Take a look at the Live Safe App:
More Sexual Misconduct Resources:
- Story edited by Rachel Stone
- Live Safe App