Creating a Safe Haven for students

UMBC calls for safer sexual conduct, but can students hear them?

By Samuel Manas

Opinions Editor

Description: UMBC is taking steps to improve sexual conduct on campus, but it hasn’t perfected its approach. Stronger advertisement of existing programs would be a leap forward.

Sex offenses happen at UMBC, like they do at any other university. However, since 2013 only three of them have been recorded in the UMBC Police Department’s crime log. That number doesn’t include cases of harassment, or unreported incidents. Only 40% of sexual assault cases are reported, according to RAINN, which makes that 3 seem even less accurate.

Fortunately, attempts are being made to create a safer environment. Events raising awareness of and attempting to prevent destructive sexual conduct abound on campus.

The Clothesline Project targets violence against women by stringing survivors’ messages along the walls of The Commons and residence halls; Green Dot has posters around campus advocating bystander intervention; there are speaking engagements, where people share their stories, and even more beyond this list..

The newest effort, Haven, comes from University Health Services. It is an online course that some staff and all freshmen are required to take. It tries to teach those who take it about healthy relationships, consent and how to intervene. It also tests how much someone learns taking the course.

“If we can get some people to get something out of it…. then I think we’re doing our job,” said Alison Rohrbach, Assistant Director of UHS. There’s little doubt that it will work — UHS only takes on programs that have been proven effective.

Some students agree that it has potential. “Being part of the queer community, this is something that’s talked about a lot,” said Jake Leizear, a Terrace Apartments RA and environmental science major in his junior year. “It was well designed, they had all of the information correct…. I think it’ll make most people think twice.”

One of the best things about Haven is that it is customizable; it allows the school to make it clear which resources are already available. Unfortunately, that’s probably the only shot some students have at learning about those kinds of programs.

Voices Against Violence is UHS’s main program for dealing with sexual assault and relationship violence, and their website is incredibly helpful, with information about consent and other resources. Still, few students know of its existence. Many aren’t aware that they can call the police for a safety escort service if they are concerned for their own safety at night.

The only program with great visibility is Green Dot, thanks to posters and video ads in The Commons. Their model needs to be better embraced by other programs.

To really encourage people to take advantage of these programs en masse, the school needs to start pushing advertising. Flyer runs should be constant. People should be asked in person to visit the sites. There needs to be a more concerted effort, outside of Haven, in physical spaces, to put these programs right in front people’s faces.

Programs, including Haven and Green Dot, aim to reduce occurrences of these types of incidents on campus. But first, they need to teach students how to prevent these situations, and how to conduct themselves properly.Without advertising these programs more effectively, that’s going to be hard to do.