RAs call for more sexual violence training

Some resident advisers said they want additional training on how to deal with sexual assault reports and concerns from their residents this academic year.

Resident advisers said the half-hour session with officials from the Title IX office during RA training earlier this month should have been extended to include more information about helping survivors after the reporting process. RAs and sexual assault survivor advocates said training should be thorough to ensure that RAs know the right support to offer survivors – a new subject to many RAs.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said that the time dedicated to sexual violence training with the Title IX office included an overview of resources and protocols to teach RAs how to respond to reports of sexual misconduct.

“The time dedicated to topics related to sexual violence and sexual misconduct was not significantly different from previous years,” she said in an email. “However, the topics discussed were enhanced to focus on supporting survivors of sexual violence, which has been requested by Resident Advisors in their feedback and suggestions for future trainings.”

Csellar declined to say if the training included discussions about the federal Title IX investigation facing the University for allegedly mishandling a sexual violence complaint.

Two current RAs, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they’re not authorized to speak to the media, said this year’s training effectively focused on how RAs can help survivors looking to report an incident, but there could have been more time spent on Title IX training.

“Nobody wants to get it wrong in terms of helping someone and supporting someone, especially if you’re an RA.”

The two said that while aspects of their training – like acting out live scenarios and taking an online course on sexual violence – were productive, they felt like not enough time was spent with Title IX staff.

A sophomore RA in West Hall said two members of the Title IX office, Kiera Bloore, the Title IX investigator, and Christina Franzino, the assistant director for sexual assault prevention and response, spoke to the RAs. He said in the future, he hopes sexual violence training includes more information on post-traumatic stress after a sexual assault and the recovery process for survivors.

“Nobody wants to get it wrong in terms of helping someone and supporting someone, especially if you’re an RA,” he said.

A sophomore RA in Potomac Hall said that staff from the Title IX office spent roughly 30 minutes with the training group, which she said was not enough time. Several of the RAs had follow-up questions after staff from the Title IX office left the training session, but she said those advisers had to email in their questions after the session.

“A lot of us don’t have experience with this and we don’t want to tell any students incorrect information, and we want to provide them with the best resources possible,” she said.

She said that she hoped officials would provide more clarity about the Department of Education’s inquiry.

“I think that’s why a lot of people wanted more clarification after the initial meeting with the Title IX office,” she said. “I wish they had talked about it, to me it seemed like an elephant in the room.”

The University fell under Title IX investigation Aug. 8, an inquiry that could lead to policy changes in the Title IX office.

“I think that GW, like most institutions, means really well, but is so scared of losing money or getting in trouble that aspects of it are extremely afraid of Title IX.”

Ben Mordechai, an alumnus who graduated in 2017 and a former RA in Potomac Hall, said he was surprised at how little attention was dedicated to Title IX matters at training last year. Mordechai said RAs need to have all the information possible so they can be effective resources for students.

“I think that GW, like most institutions, means really well, but is so scared of losing money or getting in trouble that aspects of it are extremely afraid of Title IX,” Mordechai said. “Many people in the GW administration do seriously care about sexual assault and victims, but not enough.”

Lindsey Silverberg, the director of Advocacy and Case Management for the Network for Victim Recovery in D.C., said it is important to spend more than 30 minutes with the Title IX office on sexual violence training for students, especially when they are entering a mentorship role like an RA.

“I’ve been doing this for like eight years and I think that ongoing training and education is really important so that you make sure you understand the nuances,” she said. “Thirty minutes doesn’t sound like it was maybe enough or would be enough time to really get into what all the resources are how you handle situations.”

Silverberg said sexual violence training is particularly important for RAs because they are often the first person a survivor goes to for support.

“The thing that is important especially for college survivors, the first person that they tell is often how they shape that experience, so when you have somebody respond in a way that’s not sensitive or minimizes it, it can also be really hard for them to feel like they want to talk about it again, or actually access resources around it,” she said.

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