Stepping up to sexual assault

Stepping up to sexual assault

Sexual assault on college campuses is a continuous problem that many students are facing. Some universities, including UMBC are working on implementing more intensive sexual misconduct programs for students to learn and encourage ease when discussing the difficult topic.

While UMBC has the programs and resources to reach out to students on campus, there are minimal advertisements about them or the events are heavily under attended.

“The Women’s Center hosts many programs and services to support survivors of sexual violence,” said Jess Myers, the director of the women’s center. “We just hosted our Cultivating a Survivor Responsive Campus workshop for students and faculty and staff.”

It is great that the university is taking part in programs that create awareness for victims of sexual violence, but these programs are not well-known. Like other activities and resources at UMBC, these programs are usually unheard of and under-advertised.

The Voices Against Violence program is a resource for victims and survivors of sexual assault to get help and support, or report known cases of sexual abuse on campus.

The Green Dot Program at UMBC is a somewhat successful program, as it has many forms of advertising including multiple postings on myUMBC, cartoon videos that play on a loop in the commons and buttons they hand out to students. The biggest issues with this program is the low student attendance and a lack of student knowledge as to what exactly Green Dot offers.

“A lot of students, sophomores and above have heard of it, but don’t know exactly what it is,” said Jacki Stone, the community health and safety specialist and special assistant to the associate vice president. Stone believes the program to be successful for those who have attended it.

Green Dot offers “Bystander Intervention Training” for students every month that works to educate the campus community on sexual violence, prevent it and promote behavior change. The problem here is that its attendance is low and the programs run for six hours, which prohibits many students from signing up.

There must be at least 12 people to run the training for students, but they could not reach that number in September, as only five students were signed up. Most of their successful training sessions have been with student organizations, especially Greek life. It is the rest of the student body who they have trouble reaching, as many students commute and do not want to come to school for six hours on a Sunday.

This program offers great opportunities for students to become more informed about the state of sexual assaults on campus. Green Dot should work on different incentives to get the entire campus community involved, and not just students organizations, because sexual assault is a problem all students should take seriously.

According to the Association of American Universities, data from 150,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students from 27 universities, showed that about one in four women are victims of sexual assault or misconduct at their university.

While these high numbers are not shocking and not new regarding the topic, it should be a wake up call for all universities to take this topic more seriously to improve the safety of their students.

The only other educational tool for students at UMBC is targeted towards freshmen. “All first year students also are required to do a Haven training that educates them about consent and sexual violence,” said Myers.

While it is difficult to get students involved in campus programs, especially ones that involve education outside of the classroom, it is necessary that groups on campus attempt to do so.

UMBC needs to improve upon their advertisement of programs that are currently offered and incorporate incentives for students to sign up for programs that are known throughout the campus community.