Student groups show increased interest in sexual assault prevention

Media Credit: Craig Hudson | Hatchet Photographer

Vice President of Students Against Sexual Assault Laura Zillman said about a dozen student organizations have requested prevention workshops this year, one year after GW joined the It's On Us campaign.

A year after GW officially joined the national campaign against sexual violence on campus, more students than ever are committing to the movement.

Members of Students Against Sexual Assault said other student organizations are interested in signing up for sexual assault prevention and bystander intervention training sessions with the organization. A dozen groups on campus have requested workshops this semester so far, which is about 10 more than the number of groups who had requested sessions at this time last year, Vice President of SASA Laura Zillman said.

Among those participating groups are Greek life organizations, club athletics teams and religious groups.

“More groups [have been] reaching out to us on their own accord, engaging with the content and realizing that this is something that needs to be talked about,” Zillman said. “There’s been a lot more from both sides, not just SASA going, ‘Pay attention.’ It’s actually people going, ‘We’re ready to pay attention.’”

Zillman said fraternity chapters, such as Delta Tau Delta, have also inquired about introducing SASA workshops to the pledge and rush processes. Fraternities have also completed bystander intervention training in the past.

Along with the increased interest in workshops and guidance from administrators, there has been a particularly noticeable uptick in the number of people willing to support SASA, Zillman said.

Last year, the group launched a kickstarter to supplement a $360 SA student organization budget allocation and raised $1,600, mostly from student donations.

“That really blew us away,” Zillman said. “It showed that people believe in the work we are doing and want to invest in that work.”

Over the past year, sexual assault has come into play as a major focus for student leaders on campus. Last fall, Greek leaders met with top officials as part of their stand against sexual assault following a reported assault in a Greek townhouse.

Media Credit: File Photo by Andrew Goodman | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Students Against Sexual Assault members led a training for student organization leaders this fall.

SASA members marched on Rice Hall in the spring demanding in-person, mandatory sexual assault prevention training after officials initially said the training would only be offered in an online format.

SASA leaders said 40 students have joined the group this year. They also said they have increased coordination with the Title IX Office on campaigns and training events.

The issue has also remained a priority for officials. Two new administrators were added to GW’s Title IX office, which guides survivors and ensures GW is in line with national policies. Rory Muhammad was hired as Title IX coordinator in September 2014, and Carrie Ross, the assistant director of sexual assault prevention and response, was brought on in the spring to help create student trainings and increase outreach.

Muhammad did not return a request for comment.

And with conversations on sexual assault taking place on campuses across the country, the student organization’s plans tie into a national campaign.

Last year GW committed to the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign, pledging to provide the campus with bystander intervention trainings and creating support systems for survivors in a greater effort to prevent sexual assault.

Now with an “It’s On Us” campus representative, student advocates will continue to push to make sexual assault even more of a campus-wide conversation this year.

Gidon Feen, a junior who was selected as the “It’s On Us” campus coordinator at GW, said the University created a board last year with members from the Title IX office, student representatives and other administrators to ensure that the University meets the needs of survivors. He said the board has met more frequently in recent months.

Feen, who was a White House intern when the “It’s On Us” campaign launched last September, has served as the liaison between GW students and the White House and has updated the campaign’s coordinators at the White House on GW’s campus programs against sexual assault.

He said a major part of the conversation before launching the campaign was deciding how it would operate alongside campus organizations combating assault.

“The idea behind it is that it’s sort of like a brand,” he said. “It’s like an over-encompassing thing where you have national campaign support for it while also being able to localize it.”

The Department of Justice also launched a website to advise universities on how to prevent and respond to sexual assault on campuses after a task force evaluated campus culture around sexual assault. The task force is working to add more resources like explanatory videos and legal policies to the website this year.

“I know from the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign themselves, we’re like a model school for the programming we’ve been doing,” Feen said. “You can see there is a national conversation that’s emanating from our campus because we’re able to continue doing the work and do it right.”

Feen said he and others plan to extend the “It’s On Us” programming to graduate students this year.

Feen added that getting contact information for campus support resources printed on GWorld cards this summer is evidence of further progress. Student Association President Andie Dowd included adding resources to the back of GWorld cards as one of the main points of her campaign platform, and the addition began this summer.

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