Sexual assault training points to a bigger issue

At the risk of having one’s enrollment availability disabled, each student at the University of Tulsa must complete an online sexual violence training course. The university claims that this class, along with the Alcohol Awareness class, is aimed at educating students and creating safer communities. The class incorporates a variety of topics and teaching methods and even invites the student to add their input. While the overall effectiveness of these classes is debatable, the more pressing question to the student body should be: what does a required course about Sexual Violence say about college in our society?

The company EverFi, whose mission is to educate college students on pertinent life skills, runs the course. The course is called “Haven: Understanding Sexual Assault.” Over half a million college students supplement their education with classes from EverFi each year. The fact that each student is required to complete the course says a lot about the university’s commitment to preventing sexual assault, and supporting the survivors of sexual assault and relationship violence.

The class began and ended with a survey of the student’s knowledge in sexual violence statistics, values and experiences. This is an indication that the results, while anonymous, could be used to measure the effectiveness of the course as well as the statistics about sexual violence in college.

1 in 5 women and 1 in 33 men in college report being sexually assaulted in college, and half of the women assaulted do not report their attack. Haven brings another startling fact to light: 90% of sexual assaults are carried out by somebody that the victim personally knows. This shows a clear rift in communication and respect between members of university student bodies.

While completing the sexual violence training, I could not help but admire the well roundedness of the class. The course’s broad topics included relationship violence, stalking, and what to do as a bystander. Sample scenarios with possible responses to difficult situations were given, as well as videos, testimonies and graphics with shocking statistics. Careful instructions were given on how to speak out as a bystander, which is a valuable tool for safety in social situations.

Haven did an excellent job of providing model scenarios of both straight and LGBTQ couples, showing that sexual violence is not exclusive to heterosexual relationships. This made the class more accessible to students of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Something perplexing about the class was that when issues of cultural stereotyping were addressed, the course did not require that I educate myself on the gender stereotypes of the opposite sex. This seemed like a mistake, because stereotyping and sexist language are major factors in patterns of sexual violence. Women and men should be aware of both sexes’ culturally imposed stereotypes so that they can be sensitive to the opposite gender as well as their own.

While it may be too early to judge the effectiveness of Haven, could the bigger question we should be asking ourselves be: what does required sexual violence training say about these gender roles we impose on each other as a society?

Post Author: tucollegian

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