First-year Students Learn to ‘Speak up, Step in’

Alanna Demetrius | The PhoenixStudents gathered in the Damen Cinema Sept. 3-7 to learn helpful methods for intervening in potentially dangerous situations.

With the #MeToo movement recognizing the issue of sexual assault, Loyola continues to implement its own measures for sexual assault prevention through its annual bystander training.

Loyola’s Wellness Center and police department run two safety courses — active bystander training and Campus Safety training — that first-year students are required to take before the end of September through University 101. The course is  mandatory for first-year students and covers basic information about college, according to Loyola’s First and Second Year Advising assistant director, Kevin Clarke.

The active bystander course took place Sept. 3-7 and taught students different ways to step in and stop dangerous situations involving alcohol or sexual assault, according to Mary Duckett, health educator at the Loyola Wellness Center.

The course emphasizes practical methods, such as specific phrases students can use to safely stop a situation from escalating at a social event, according to Duckett.

The presentation is a continuation of the required Sexual Assault Prevention for Undergraduates online course first-year students took before the semester started, according to Duckett. The online course includes safety tips and testimonies from sexual assault.  

Katie Dickens, a first-year political science major, said the training reviewed information she already learned through the online course.

“I feel like I wouldn’t react to a situation any differently than after I took the sexual assault and alcohol online courses,” Dickens said.  

Other students, such as first-year communications major, Lily Buchen said the course was helpful.

“I think that the training was more helpful than the online training because it got people involved and had better visual representations of situations,” Buchen said.  

Although the presentation might have seemed repetitive to some students, this is intentional, according to Duckett.

“We really believe in health education,” Duckett said.  “It’s important to use a variety of methods to educate students because people learn in different ways.”

Duckett said she believes it’s important to give first-years basic information early.

“We give this presentation to new students because they’re coming into a new community and a new environment,” Duckett said. “We want to make sure everyone has the baseline information.”

This kind of Title IX training in universities is required by a federal law, called the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act. Nearby colleges Northwestern University and DePaul University also use this program, according to the schools’ websites.

Other methods of training include programs that cover university regulations or survivor testimonies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Jill Geisler, a journalism professor at Loyola who ran the PowerShift Summit in Washington D.C. dedicated to media professionals affected by #MeToo, said she believes this training encourages the community to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

“I think we’re telling more people that you have to be the eyes and the ears so that no one gets off the hook,” Geisler said.

A 2015 study published in Journal of Violence Against Women found college students who participated in bystander training experienced an attitude change regarding sexual violence. A survey conducted 12 months later indicated the information from the program was still effective for students.

Geisler said that the training seems effective because she originally learned about the term “active bystander” through a student who took the course.

“Instinctively, I think it is a positive thing. I learned the term ‘active bystander’ from students well before I was involved with leading this effort,” Geisler said. “I became familiar with active bystander, the term and the responsibility, from a student in an ethics class. If [the course] is teaching educators, it just might be [working].”

Geisler said the training is just one part of changing the culture surrounding sexual assault.

“Take that training,” Geisler said. “Learn the right words, so you will feel better prepared in uncomfortable situations. But don’t stop there,” Geisler said. “Be a force for change and continue to hold the most powerful people accountable— the people who can make sure systems don’t support sexual misconduct.”

Clarke said he believes the goal of this presentation is to start in class discussions to further the conversation.

“I think where it really becomes beneficial is that as a community we’re talking about these things together,” Clarke said. “Students are having these conversations in a structured environment, which is University 101.”

Training seminars are set to continue through Sept. 14. The Campus Safety course covers active shooter procedures and other general tips about staying safe around campus, according to Officer Kevin Newman, Campus Safety access control officer.

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