Leaders of Georgetown’s largest student groups will undergo required bystander intervention training as part of the Sexual Assault and Misconduct Task Force’s goal of improving bystander education to prevent sexual assault on campus.
The first training session, coordinated by Health Education Services, will take place this Sunday, with four additional sessions to come in the following weeks. Student leaders are required to sign up for one session to train at least three members of their organization’s leadership.
The task force’s Bystander Intervention and Education Committee, convened by the Office of the President in June after the release of Sexual Assault and Misconduct Climate Survey, is working to improve bystander training on campus after the Sexual Assault and Misconduct Climate Survey’s report released June 16 showed that 77 percent of students have witnessed high-risk situations said they did not intervene when they witnessed a potential incident of sexual misconduct, of which 24 percent said they did know what to do.
The committee plans to work with both recognized and unrecognized student organizations, including Students of Georgetown, Inc., the Georgetown University Alumni Student Federal Credit Union, the Blue and Gray Tour Guide Society and other student organizations with widespread leadership, but has not solidified a specific list of organizations to date, according to Zac Schroepfer (MSB ’19), the student co-chair for the bystander intervention and education committee.
Health Education Services will adapt the session from a curriculum from the University of New Hampshire. The program will educate students on sexual assault issues on college campuses as well as how to identify and respond to high-risk situations.
The training will use case studies, role play and discussions to train student leaders for effective bystander intervention.
Assistant Dean for Student Engagement Erika Cohen Derr, who reached out to student groups to sign up for the mandatory training, said improving bystander education through student organizations is important because of their unique role in providing an outlet for social life at Georgetown.
“I think that student organizations provide a foundation for social life for many students, and so I’m really encouraged at the responsible and forward-thinking approach to addressing sexual assault on campus,” Cohen Derr said. “All student organizations, every individual who goes through it, will benefit and share that back to their group. That’s the goal and the objective. If they’re providing a context for social life, then I think this will be valuable to them.”
Schroepfer said training student organizations in bystander intervention can facilitate safer social environments on campus.
“Georgetown’s culture is different from a lot of other colleges in the fact that our social culture focuses a lot on clubs. Many parties occur because of the clubs and people who typically hang out together are typically parts of the same clubs,” Schroepfer said. “So we decided that if this is true and we can train student leaders, we can have more active bystanders in each social environment and help to protect the community in that way.”
According to Schroepfer, student leaders should prove instrumental in setting an appropriate example for other members of their organization.
“People do look up to club leaders as role models, so the idea is if your student leaders are being active bystanders and are stepping into certain situations which they see as potentially dangerous, that more students are going to be motivated to learn how to be an active bystander and to make that culture change,” Schroepfer said.
Director of Health Education Services Carol Day said Health Education Services is dedicated to spreading awareness and promoting a shift in student behavior in high-risk situations.
“We hope to increase awareness about sexual assault and resources, of course. Specifically, we hope to increase bystander intervention for the next time we do the campus climate survey,” Day said. “We hope we will be able to influence students to think more about sexual assault, and we expect we will be able to work on some culture change and shift in how students behave in high-risk situations.”
Schroepfer, the student head for the project, said the committee’s goal is to instill long-lasting change in the student body’s mindset toward sexual assault.
“We’re really trying to show that there’s a culture shift and show here on campus that people actually do care about this issue. If you ask anybody on campus, people know that sexual assault is an issue on campus and they want to know how they can become a part of the movement to solve the issue,” Schroepfer said.
Schroepfer also said the task force was discussing potential future projects, including mandated bystander intervention training for all incoming freshmen.
“The hope is moving forward to eventually be able to implement this for all students, whether that’s trying a step process where we implement it for all the freshmen or we implement it for all students in general,” Schroepfer said. “We’re first doing the student leaders to see how it works, what kind of feedback we get from the program and then from there we’ll move to adopt it for all students.”
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