Bystander intervention to launch in November

In November, the College will implement the Dartmouth Bystander Intervention program, a Dartmouth-specific program designed to combat sexual assault and hazing on campus, according to Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson.

DBI, developed by clinical psychologist Jennifer Sayre ’93, will begin by focusing on preventing sexual assault and will involve training sessions to teach volunteers bystander intervention techniques that they would feel comfortable using in any situation, Johnson said.

“What Jennifer Sayre and her team are doing is they’re putting together a training program to say, Here are some of the warning signals, here are some of the circumstances that are ripe for sexual assault and here are skills that you can learn to intervene and prevent a possible sexual assault,'” Johnson said.

Sayre and Johnson eventually hope to expand DBI to address hazing, they said.

“The umbrella is designed to help all members of the community figure out what impact they want to have on the community,” Sayre said.

Bystander intervention programs addressing alcohol use and sexual assault exist around the country, but there is little research available on their application to hazing, Johnson said.

“I’m pretty sure we’d be charting new territory,” Johnson said.

Sayre said that the program focuses on making intervention realistic for participants.

“It’s about finding solutions that honor your barriers,” Sayre said. “If you don’t want to make a social scene or call your buddy out, no problem. Here are some solutions that wouldn’t do that.”

Sayre has developed the program in collaboration with Sexual Abuse Awareness Program coordinators Amanda Childress and Rebekah Carrow. In order to obtain campus perspectives, Sayre interviewed Dartmouth staff members and held multiple focus groups with students, according to Childress, who said that the program seeks to involve the entire Dartmouth community instead of specific campus groups.

DBI training will be available for Dartmouth students, faculty and staff, according to Sayre.

Facilitator training for the program is already under way, and the first round of student workshops will begin in November. Students who have been described by their peers as active or engaged on campus will be invited to participate in these initial workshops, according to Special Assistant to the Dean of the College Liz Agosto.

The initial “rollout” of the program will occur in the beginning of Winter term, when all members of campus will be invited to participate, Agosto said.

Sayre said that the program will only succeed if participants join voluntarily, so DBI will initially be a voluntary program, Johnson said.

In addition to Johnson and the Sexual Abuse Awareness Program, Sayre is working with Greek Letter Organizations and Societies, the athletic department, the Office of Residential Life, the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, faculty, Safety and Security, Health Services and various student organizations to implement DBI. GLOS Director Wes Schaub said GLOS representatives will be directly involved in educating the community about DBI.

“One of our biggest responsibilities in all this is to help identify students who believe this to be an important issue, and get them involved,” Schaub said. “For this to be successful, there has to be students who both believe it’s important and want to do something about it.”

DBI is a positive step in giving students access to improving campus safety, Carrow said.

“Everyone has a role to play in making sure that Dartmouth is safer, so we want to make sure everyone has access to play that role out,” Carrow said.

Johnson said she hopes student organizations that already focus on preventing sexual assault and hazing, such as Green Team and the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault, will become involved in the intervention program.

Green Team director Will Conaway ’13 said he is supportive of this “bottom-up” approach rather than a “top-down” administrative policy, noting that DBI has the potential to affect more Dartmouth students than Green Team can.

“[DBI] is more of a social-norming campaign as opposed to a social event management organization,” Conaway said. “I hope this will reach further into the Dartmouth community to places where Green Team hasn’t been able to.”

The Inter-Fraternity Council has also helped develop and promote the program, according to IFC president Tim Brown ’13.

“Everyone is excited to learn more about and from the program and to help implement it successfully at Dartmouth,” Brown said.

Feedback from student organizations and focus groups has left Sayre optimistic about the future of DBI, she said.

“I’ve met with such a broad range of students and, universally, every single subgroup has said, Sexual violence isn’t okay with me, and I just want to know what to do to help,'” Sayre said. “That level of readiness and buy-in is rare.”

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