SAAP coordinators spur dialogue
By Sophia Johnston
Published on Thursday, January 12, 2012
As a result of collaboration between the President’s Office, the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault, the Sexual Assault Awareness Program and student-led organizations Mentors Against Violence and Sexual Assault Peer Advisors, the College has taken a coordinated response to the issue of sexual assault on campus, according to Rebekah Carrow, who became one of the College’s two SAAP coordinators last fall. SAAP is currently working on implementing sexual abuse policy changes stemming from a review committee’s recommendations and bringing a new bystander intervention program to the College.
Carrow praised the degree to which the issue of sexual violence has entered campus dialogue.
“The exciting thing about Dartmouth is that there is a strong sense that this is an issue that we as a community want to address together,” she said. “There is not a lot of apathy.” Pressure from students and the SPCSA prompted the College to hire Carrow as its second coordinator, MAV co-director Anastassia Radeva ’12 said. As a result of Carrow’s presence, “student survivors and affected students can always have access to a staff member,” encouraging discussion and engagement, she said.
Prior to her work at the College, Carrow served as a hospital accompaniment and public education specialist at the Young Women’s Christian Association of Richmond, Va. She coordinated and trained a volunteer team that responded to sexual violence in association with a network of local hospitals and organizations, according to the SAAP website. The team worked with over 500 survivors of sexual assault over the course of a year and a half, Carrow said.
Moving to the College constituted an “opportunity to reconnect with college students at this interesting stage in their lives,” Carrow said. “We need to focus on the internal passion of the student body and the leaders to continue to bring about more change.”
As one of the SAAP coordinators, Carrow’s roles include first responder training, which establishes practices and resources used by SAPAs as they assist survivors of sexual assault. She serves as a resource, providing students with the information about sexual assault awareness and education, she said.
Although SAAP does not provide a counseling service like those available through Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Dick’s House, SAPAs can help students explore the resources available to them based on their specific experiences, Carrow said.
“The process of accessing resources is overwhelming,” Carrow said. “It is my job to step into the role of being a calm resource for students, empowering them to make informed choices. All discussions are confidential. The SAAP door is always open and I encourage student feedback.”
Carrow works closely with fellow SAAP coordinator Amanda Childress, who was hired in July 2011. Before joining the College, Childress worked at Ohio University, where she addressed issues of sexual health, sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking.
Although each campus has a different culture, Childress’ previous work in a college setting has facilitated her smooth adjustment to Dartmouth, she said.
“College is a time when students are learning about what a healthy relationship is,” Childress said. “Relationships at this time are so important. The ‘hook-up culture’ is very common on college campuses because the student population is less likely to explore different dating options.”
This month, SAAP will begin implementing a New Hampshire-founded program called Bringing in the Bystander, which focuses on building confidence and skills that enable students to intervene in potentially dangerous situations, Childress said.
“This bystander approach will focus on answering the question of how we as a community can take steps to make our community a safer environment,” Childress said.
Radeva said that while she praises the character of students at the College, their cooperative and open nature is not always evident during nighttime social events.
“The nighttime atmosphere is not as collaborative and welcoming as the daytime atmosphere,” Radeva said. “You aren’t always sure if you can depend on people around you, particularly as a freshman or if you are unaffiliated.”
Since the August 2011 publication of 12 recommendations for sexual abuse policy by the Committee on Standards’ Sexual Assault Review Committee, SAAP has started to work more closely with the Committee of Judicial Affairs. The recommendations address various aspects of the disciplinary process for sexual assault complaints, from the language of current sexual abuse policy to sanctioning guidelines and requests for review.
Expanded COS advisor training and revision of sexual abuse policy language — including clearly defining terms like “sexual misconduct,” “sexual penetration” and “sexual touching” to clarify prohibited behavior — have been successfully implemented, Childress said. Other recommendations are still under review.
On Jan. 28, the SPCSA will hold a symposium intended to foster communication and collaboration among students, faculty, administrators and alumni in order to maximize the impact of ongoing and future work on sexual assault, according to Chinedu Udeh ’12, co-chair of the committee.
“By bridging the gaps between the engaged but disconnected community groups, the SPCSA aims to build a broad coalition against sexual violence at Dartmouth, with a long-term intention to reduce this abuse on campus,” Udeh said in an email to The Dartmouth. “The symposium will focus on the themes of ‘where we are now,’ ‘what still needs work’ and how as a coalition organizations can collaborate and work together to complement each other’s work.”
Members of the SPCSA hope the symposium will encourage innovative ideas that “truly represent the desires of the community,” Udeh said.
MAV co-director Andrea Jaresova ’12 said she joined the organization during her freshman year in order to help make the community safer.
“The biggest challenge students face with regard to the issue of sexual violence is talking about it,” she said. “It is important to make people realize that there are different definitions. We need to continue to encourage an honest dialogue — bring the ugly questions out in the open.”
MAV — founded by students in 2006 — has over 100 trained members, according to Jaresova. Part of its work involves leading mandatory facilitations with students affiliated with Greek organizations and affinity housing, she said.
Childress said she cannot comment on changes in sexual assault trends at the College since her arrival but estimated that she will better understand the intricacies of her position and organization, as well as of Dartmouth culture, after her first year.