By Aimee Chiavaroli
Sexual Assault Prevention Week, held this year from Sept. 22 to 26, offered students opportunities to learn how to prevent sexual assault and help survivors.
Health and Wellness Coordinator Jessica Greene held a merit-point program Thursday, Sept. 25, called “Blurred Lines,” featuring a video and discussion on sexual assault, alcohol, and consent. She also provided pamphlets with resources for reporting an attack or getting help.
Sexual assault comes in many different forms, and while there are assault cases of men against men, and women against women, men are typically the aggressors against women, Greene said.
Greene’s program covered the different types of consent, verbal and nonverbal, and how alcohol can sometimes blur perceptions of how the situation is actually playing out. Verbal consent, as Green explained, is verbally saying “yes,” while nonverbal consent would be actively participating such as kissing back.
It is “both people’s job to give and receive consent, and a lack of ‘no’ does not mean ‘yes,’” she said.
The Prevention Week’s programs were held days before two sexual assaults were reported to Campus Police.
The first assault took place around 2 a.m. on Sept. 28. The woman told police it occurred on a pathway by the MacPhaidan Library.
A Stonehill College Announcement email was sent out on Oct.1 alerting the campus that another student reported she was sexually assaulted four weeks ago in a residence hall. The assailant was someone the woman had met on two occasions prior to the assault. The woman told police she knew the person’s name but did not want to provide it to authorities at this time.
Experts said one way to prevent assault is to be educated on how to not be a bystander, and how to talk to and help survivors.
Recently, the White House launched the “It’s On Us” campaign to raise awareness on sexual assault being a community-wide issue for which everybody needs to be responsible.
This campaign is part of an ongoing effort by the White House to prevent sexual assault and promote ways to respond to it. They started with a comprehensive “Title IX” guideline for schools and colleges on how to deal with reports of assault, and then launched a “1is2many PSA” and a “Not Alone” campaign in April. This raised awareness on how one sexual assault is too many, and that survivors are not alone.
The “Not Alone” campaign sees colleges and universities taking initiative on conducting “campus climate surveys.” These surveys are meant to assess people’s knowledge and awareness of sexual assault, Vice President of Student Affairs Pauline Dobrowski said. It will test if people know basic definitions and are informed on these issues, so the school knows what to improve on.
“We want to be intentional about what we’re asking and how we’re asking it,” Dobrowski said.
“We’re working diligently to take the lead on this issue here at Stonehill, while responding to additional guidelines and recommendations as they are put out by the federal and local government,” Dobrowski said.
The college is developing the survey this year, and plans to implement it early fall next year.
“Our hope is that the results will provide us with deeper insight into the level of knowledge and awareness of this issue on our campus as well as the areas in which we can improve,” she said.
Students are encouraged to keep talking about the issue so assault survivors will feel comfortable reporting cases to authorities, experts said.
Stonehill has a number of resources available, including Bystander training and R.A.D. self-defense classes, which teach awareness skills and techniques. There are also groups and organizations on campus that discuss these topics such as Women’s Health and Empowerment Now (WHEN), The Moore Center for Gender and Equity, and Men Against Violence.
On or off campus, students can also contact A New Day, a rape crisis center with offices in Brockton and Quincy. The center has a 24-hour hotline, 508-588-8255.
There are a number of different ways to report an assault. You can make a report to doctors, counselors, nurses, or priests at confession confidentially. Individuals who are paid by the college such as a resident assistant (RA), professor, or administrator are required by law to file a report. They will, however, maintain as much privacy as they can.
There are more options and information on the Title IX page on Stonehill’s website.
“First and foremost we want to do all we can to prevent an incident from happening, but in the unfortunate event that an incident does occur, we want to ensure that we have systems in place that encourage reporting,” Dobrowski said.