Title IX office tailors mandatory sexual assault prevention trainings

Incoming students now have more individualized options for in-person sexual assault prevention training sessions.

For the second year, new undergraduate students must complete an online program and an in-person training program on sexual assault education, but students this year can choose from six specialized workshop options. The workshop choices will give students a chance to learn more about a topic they’re interested in, rather than going through a general course.

Carrie Ross, the assistant director of sexual assault prevention and response, said students can participate in a general workshop on understanding consent and learning bystander intervention skills — similar to last year’s mandatory sessions — but students who have “different interests and baselines of knowledge” can choose from five other options.

The sessions cover topics like preventing dating violence for international students, how to get involved in anti-sexual assault efforts on campus and relationship violence prevention, according to a Title IX office webpage. Other workshops will focus on LGBT students, relationship violence and how male college students can prevent sexual violence.

All trainings will cover the definitions of consent and sexual assault, information about GW resources and policies governing sexual misconduct, in addition to the session’s dedicated topics, according to the website.

The trainings will be led by Title IX office staff members. Students can sign up for courses from the first week of classes through October.

Last year was the first year officials expanded trainings for freshmen from Colonial Inauguration to the first week of school. That decision came after 92 percent of students who voted in the Student Association elections that year were in favor of implementing mandatory in-person sexual assault trainings at orientation.

About 97 percent of new students completed the in-person sexual assault prevention and intervention trainings last year.

Workshop topics were chosen based on feedback students gave after last year’s sessions and by analyzing the types of questions participants asked during the sessions, Ross said. Staff also consulted other departments and student leaders when choosing the workshop topics.

“We want the material to be as engaging and relevant as possible, and this involves building lots of different pathways into the subject matter,” Ross said.

She added that the workshops are “specific to our GW community,” but also cover general information that students can use outside of GW.

Last year a higher number of GW student organizations around campus were interested in signing up for sexual assault prevention and bystander intervention training sessions with Students Against Sexual Assault.

Kalpana Vissa, the co-president of SASA, said individualized workshops can empower students to use the resources offered to them throughout their years as GW students.

SASA’s executive board will present at the workshop on culture change and advocacy. She said the new options could be appealing to sexual assault survivors.

“We are also going to have freshman who are potentially already survivors, so we want to give them the chance to attend a session that they feel more comfortable with and that they feel could help them,” Vissa said.

Experts in sexual violence education said tailored programs can have profound impacts on students because participants can connect with topics that relate to sessions more than they would with a one-size-fits-all course.

Katie Eichele, the director of the Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education at the University of Minnesota, which develops policies and protocols for responding to sexual assault, said
hosting tailored education programs leads to real behavior changes in students.

“Knowledge alone doesn’t create change,” Eichele said. “It’s creating an experience of understanding why the issue is important, especially to who they are as an individual, that helps to create actual behavior change.”

Melora Sundt, a professor specializing in campus sexual assault and harassment at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, said individualized topics help engage students who might otherwise not be interested.

“If you allow them to choose something they might be interested in, you have a better shot at capturing their attention,” Sundt said.

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