UA activates 'Sexual Assault Response Team'07/30/2014
Reporting to The University of Akron Board of Trustees at its July 30, 2014 meeting, leadership of the recently formed Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) provided an update on initiatives to further enhance campus awareness of issues and activities related to sexual respect.
SART was formed in May 2014 with the intent to better coordinate the University’s existing response services to victims of sexual assault and sexual misconduct and to provide an opportunity for campus constituencies to explore methods to further improve education about, and responsiveness to Title IX issues. As Title IX’s focus has broadened beyond athletics to more directly impact sexual misconduct/gender equity issues, UA continues to review, and as necessary, update its protocols and programs.
As part of its expanded Title IX education program, beginning in August, all incoming students will be required to take an interactive, on-line learning module called Think About It. Developed by the nationally recognized California-based organization, CampusClarity, Think About It provides students with additional tools they can use to make informed decisions about sex, drugs, alcohol, relationships, and other issues they may face during their first months in college.
CampusClarity describes Think About It as a research-based, harm-reduction approach to “prepare new college students for the unique challenges and responsibilities of college life, focusing on minimizing the risks associated with alcohol, drugs, and sexual violence.”
The on-line program, which takes about two hours to complete and can be paced individually, also provides pointers on bystander intervention--teaching and encouraging students to help keep other students out of trouble by intervening when they might be most vulnerable to sexual misconduct.
UA President Scott L. Scarborough commented, “There has been a great deal of attention, deservedly so, to the issue of sexual respect—on this campus, other universities in Ohio and across the nation, on Capitol Hill, and in the media. With the rollout of the Think About It program to all incoming students, we are reinforcing our commitment to deal with these difficult issues head-on and to reduce the risks to our students.”
According to UA student Justin Bradley, the program “gives students the tools to prevent a sexual assault from happening as well as ways to increase bystander intervention. It will greatly influence the climate on campus because even though everyone knows that sexual assaults happen, this encourages discussion on ways to prevent them.” Justin is a fourth-year psychology student and president of The Male Excellence Network at UA. He says some students “have a preconceived notion about the college experience, so seeing things from multiple perspectives through Think About It could potentially help save someone from being a victim of a sexual assault.”
UA student Brittany Rhodes also believes the program will make a difference: “I wish it had been available when I was a freshman to help prepare me for the many misconceptions about campus culture that I walked into. It addresses many relevant issues that will make life in college much easier to navigate. It sheds a lot of light on the hard issues of sexual violence-- the myths, the misconceptions, and the taboo nature of even talking about rape. It will empower students to learn about partying and sex without the potentially negative experiences.”
“All our students have traditionally been provided opportunities to learn about safety programs on campus, including during orientation and New Roo Weekend,” says Vice President of Student Success and Vice Provost Candace Campbell Jackson. “This new course prepares them--before they even step foot on campus--to think differently about difficult issues faced by all new college students. By challenging our students and our entire campus community to think differently, we are engaging in the kind of learning and conversation that shapes the Akron Experience.”
The UA Sexual Assault Response Team includes representatives from the Rape Crisis Center of Medina & Summit Counties. Center Director Dana Zedak commended the University for bringing Think About It to campus, calling it a “comprehensive prevention effort that will start with ALL first year students taking this online program. The University isn’t doing this because they have to; they are doing this because it’s the right thing. Because it’s needed. Because they care about their students.”
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