Program combats sexual violence
By Sophia Johnston
Published on Friday, February 17, 2012
Students gathered Thursday night in Haldeman Hall for the first campus-wide workshop of the College’s new Bringing in the Bystander program, an effort to tackle sexual violence on campus, according to Amanda Childress, one of the coordinators of the Sexual Assault Awareness Program. The new bystander intervention initiative, initially developed at the University of New Hampshire, analyzes the role of the bystander in preventing sexual violence by increasing participants’ knowledge and changing their attitudes and behaviors to ensure effective response.
“For years, programming efforts have focused on steps women can take to prevent being victims,” Childress said. “Instead, this initiative focuses on bystanders and their role in intervening in order to examine how we as a society perpetuate cycles of violence so that we make this a community issue, not just a women’s and men’s issue.”
The College currently offers two-hour condensed workshop sessions, which have been shown to be the most effective way to educate students. The workshops are modeled after those implemented for students and faculty at UNH, where each session runs for over four hours, Childress said.
While Thursday’s Bringing in the Bystander workshop was open to all students, previous workshops have targeted student leaders to establish ways to best incorporate the program with campus groups. Thus far, 60 students have participated in the 20-person workshops, according to Childress. The participants have included peer mentors, athletic captains, international student mentors, leaders of Dartmouth Outing Club First-Year Trips, members of the Greek Leadership Council and undergraduate advisors.
SAAP coordinators Childress and Rebekah Carrow have also reached out to the Dean of the College division and representatives from the Undergraduate Deans Office, the Office for Judicial Affairs, Safety and Security, the Office of Residential Life, the Collis Center for Student Involvement and Greek Letter Organizations and Societies.
The workshops encourage discussion about the definition of a bystander and examples of successful bystander intervention, using case studies to demonstrate how students can effectively and safely intervene in risky situations and challenge certain attitudes, according to Childress. They also explore the concept of power dynamics and types of abuse, and they detail the resources available on campus.
“The workshops focus on helping participants learn and practice appropriate and safe prevention skills to enable students to be better bystanders by raising their awareness of potentially risky situations, undertake victim empathy exercises as well as providing examples for strategic intervention before, during and after attacks so that you can be a pro-social bystander at any point,” she said.
Childress highlighted the importance of encouraging individuals to intervene earlier and educating them about how language can contribute to a negative culture. The focus is on empowering bystanders to act without fearing social ramifications, she said.
College President Jim Yong Kim has led efforts to implement the program after national research on sexual violence demonstrated that bystander intervention techniques are the best approach to changing attitudes on college campuses, Childress said.
Anastassia Radeva ’12, co-director of Mentors Against Violence, said she believes the most important aspect of the workshop was its emphasis on individual accountability.
“A community is made up of individuals, and in order for a community to be engaged in bystander intervention we need to take into account individual actions and responsibilities,” Radeva said. “The program challenges people to think individually and not just on behalf of their sub-communities and organizations that may already be involved in tackling sexual abuse.”
Zack Doherty ’13 said he attended Thursday’s workshop in Haldeman after it was recommended by the Dartmouth Peak Performance mentor program, a program for varsity student-athlete mentors.
“I was most surprised to learn that 92 percent of women are raped by men they know,” Doherty said. “This is alarming because you expect to be able to trust someone you know.”
Doherty said he believes that implementing this program during First-Year Orientation would be beneficial.
“Programs like this open your eyes to the issues and why they exist,” he said. “If you understand it early on you are better able to prevent it.”
Duncan Hall ’13, co-chair of the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault, said he approves of the College’s decision to implement the “educational and insightful program” alongside existing programs that address sexual assault on campus. Hall said he was surprised at the origins of the initiative, which emerged following an incident of sexual abuse at UNH, he said in an email to The Dartmouth.
“It shows you this issue is not merely confined to metropolitan areas or other countries,” Hall said. “Serious sexual abuse incidents have occurred right here in New Hampshire and could just as easily occur here.”
Bringing in the Bystander acts as a complement to the other efforts the College has taken to “create a comprehensive approach to reducing sexual abuse on campus,” according to Childress. It differs from programs such as Green Team by aiming to provide students with the skills to recognize and respond to potentially dangerous situations.
Thursday’s workshop ended with an acknowledgment of the Dartmouth principle of community, which states that “the life and work of a Dartmouth student should be based on integrity, responsibility and consideration.”
The next workshop is scheduled for March 1 in Haldeman.