Prescott to lead Sexual Abuse Awareness Program

Leah Prescott, the new coordinator of the College’s sexual abuse awareness program, sees several ways to raise awareness for issues of sexual violence on campus, starting with a radio show dealing with the subject that will debut Tuesday night.

The show, entitled “Eyes and Ears: Seeing Violence… Hearing Silence,” will air Tuesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. on WDCR. Dartmouth Television will broadcast an encore presentation of the radio show one week later.

Prescott and Alysondra Duke, assistant director of SAAP, created the show, which will put together hip hop, underground and poetry music, as a forum for students to learn about sexual relationship violence and also for anonymous callers to break their silence on their experiences.

The show has been in the planning stages for over a month, during which Prescott and Duke had to be trained as disc jockeys. They hope to keep the show in line with the missions of SAAP and the Center for Women and Gender, without replacing any programs currently in place.

Prescott and Duke will incorporate interviews with administrators and faculty members on their show, including counselors at Dick’s House who might discuss psychological problems including eating disorders, Prescott said.

Prescott’s other goals for sexual abuse awareness on campus include training anywhere from 50 to 60 new sexual abuse peer advisers each year, some of whom Prescott hopes to attract from more diverse backgrounds, including various racial, ethnic and linguistic groups.

In addition to overseeing SAPAs, Prescott’s work involves promoting and creating awareness for sexual violence issues through discussions, meetings and a crisis intervention hotline, which Prescott said does not currently have staff members on duty all the time.

She hopes to recruit more counselors to fully staff the service 24 hours a day.

Prescott fills the position former SAAP Coordinator Abby Tassell vacated amid controversy that the administration did not adequately support the program, but Prescott said College officials have been supportive of her efforts so far.

“Everybody has their own experiences, if you put 10 people on the job for three years, they would all say something different, I can only comment on my experience, which has been an encouraging one,” Prescott said. “It is very welcoming to new ideas and new ways to do things and that’s across the board, administrators faculty and students.”

Prescott, a single mother and the first black woman to coordinate the College’s sexual abuse awareness efforts, said she was drawn to her line of work.

“It kind of found me,” she said. “I really believe that God called me to do this work.”

Prescott’s supervisor, Mark Reed, director of counseling and health resources, praised her work so far and her breadth of experience in the field.

Prescott formerly worked at the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Service and then the YWCA Sexual Assault Crisis Services in Hartford, Conn., before coming to Dartmouth.

“I have been thrilled to have Leah here. She brings a wealth of experience and has really hit the ground running,” Reed said. “It’s hard to find someone who has both clinical, one-on-one experience and who can also work with programming and changing culture.”

Students agree that Prescott’s work is already making a difference on campus, and Prescott said student energy drew her to the job.

“I think Leah is doing a really incredible job — very active, a lot of new ideas, such as the radio show and the television shows.” SAAP intern Aya Caldwell ’06 said.

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