Increase in sex offenses on campus spurs groups to act

The Men’s Project is one group that works on campus to raise assault-prevention awareness. “[The organization was formed] in the hopes that men across the campus would join together to recognize and do something about what’s going on here and everywhere, namely, sexual violence committed by men against women,” said Andy Tew ’07, co-chair of the group. “The Men’s Project’s main focus is to raise awareness of what men on this campus can do to prevent sexual assault.”

Gretchen Krull, assistant director of health education, has worked with the Men’s Project on the Mentors in Violence Prevention program. The program teaches strategies of intervention to bystanders who see a potentially harmful situation. “We give you strategies to intervene when you are looking at a potentially dangerous situation,” said Krull. “For example, where someone is intoxicated and unable to give consent.” Last spring, 20 students and six staff members were trained and Krull hopes to continue this program.

The five-college consortium recently received a two-year grant from the Department of Justice for $399,000. The money will help fund training. “We will use the money to train RCs and Campus Police officers,” said Krull. “The grant is a way to pool resources of the five colleges to establish continuity of understanding sexual violence.”

Krull emphasizes that education is the best way to decrease the number of offenses on campus. “I feel pretty strongly that the way to lower the numbers [of offenses] is to educate people about what constitutes a sex offense,” she said. “We need to make people aware of what actions cross the line.”

Moe Zeidan ’07, a resident counselor (RC), said many offenses have common elements. “Several factors that may come into play when a sex crime occurs include a girl being separated from her friends, the intoxication of the man or the woman, and no planning in advance as to what time to go home after going out,” he said. “It’s important to pay attention to what you’re drinking, especially if being served a drink by a stranger. This should be avoided as much as possible, and if it does occur it should be with caution and attentiveness.”

The Peer Advocates (PAs) are another resource. PAs promote awareness of the impact of sexual disrespect on victims and provide confidential support to students.

Anna Antoniak ’05, an RC and a peer advocate, believes that students can prevent sex offenses on campus by being aware. “[Students should] keep their eyes and ears open at parties. If they see an uncomfortable situation, make note of it, and if they feel safe [doing so], intervene. If they don’t feel safe they should absolutely heed that. But in that case there are other methods of action, for example, calling campus police,” she said.

Tew encourages men to think about what women experience. “The Men’s Project wants men on this campus to think about their masculinity in new ways; how being a ‘real man’ can also mean being emotionally aware, communicative and understanding,” he said. “By having discussions and events that make guys think about their conception of manhood, we hope to lift the weight off of their shoulders, help them recognize and climb out of the oppressive box of traditional masculinity.”

There are other resources for students who need assistance. RCs are available in every dormitory and are an important resource for students concerned with sexual assault. RC Ian Shin ’06 believes that RCs are well prepared to handle sex offenses. “RCs go through very rigorous and sensitive training to deal with and prevent sex crimes,” he said.

Shin explained that if a student approaches an RC about a sex offense, the victim’s well-being is the top priority. “In reporting sex crimes, the first and most important rule for RCs is that we only do what the survivor wants us to do,” he said.

Student Health Educators are also involved in preventing sex offenses by listening to, advising and educating other students about health issues, including sexual assault prevention.