Twenty-eight and a half percent of college women report experiencing an attempted or completed sexual assault during or prior to entering college, according to the Campus Sexual Assault Survey in 2007.
In the 2014-2015 academic year alone, five sexual assaults have been reported on TU’s campus. While sexual assault may be the most talked about form of violence at universities, other forms of violence also occur, including verbal, emotional and physical violence.
This year there have been several additions to TU programming that attempt to address violence on campus.
First, there has been the creation of SAVE, the Student Alliance for Violence Education, which aims to educate and raise awareness about sexual, emotional and physical abuse.
Senior Sonja Worthy said she was inspired to start the organization in order to provide undergraduates with more opportunities to address issues of abuse. Worthy has worked with the Advocacy Alliance, which is the official committee of trained faculty, staff and graduate students that works to eliminate violence on campus.
“Awareness about these issues is often the first step. In order to make a positive impact, one must first understand what is going on,” Worthy said. “Simply having discussions with your friends about, for example, rape culture and verbal abuse is doing something positive.”
In addition to the birth of SAVE, there have been several additions to Advocacy Alliance’s programs. Dr. Joanne Davis, Advocacy Alliance member and Co-Director of TITAN, the Tulsa Institute of Trauma, Adversity and Injustice, came to SAVE’s meeting last week to speak about a new bystander intervention approach.
“The way we’re approaching violence education right now and trying to prevent interpersonal violence is very different from the way that it used to be done. It used to be that you would get a whole bunch of women together and say things like ‘don’t wear your hair in a ponytail,’ or ‘don’t wear a short skirt,’ or ‘don’t walk alone at night.’ The approach was ‘don’t do these things and don’t act like this.’ It was all about risk prevention and it was wholly unhelpful,” said Davis.
Under this approach, men were told, “don’t be bad people, and don’t do bad things. It was always, ‘blame, blame, blame.’” She said this approach does not work, because most men are not violent.
Davis emphasized that the approach experts are taking now is bystander intervention: “it’s not on the victims to make sure they’re not victimized, and it’s not on the men to make sure they’re not being perpetrators. It is a problem for everybody. This is a model that recognizes that men are not the only perpetrators of violence and that women are not the only victims. It is everyone’s responsibility to prevent violence.”
The bystander model teaches individuals how to recognize situations that could potentially lead to violence and how to intervene.
The Advocacy Alliance will begin a “train the trainer” model. Several weekends ago, a group of faculty, staff and graduate students went through a thorough and extensive training program put on by “We End Violence,” a program that has been empirically proven to be effective. Starting next fall, they will begin teaching undergraduate student leaders how to teach groups of students the bystander intervention approach. The course to become a trainer will last four hours, and the classes run by student trainers run 90 minutes.
In addition to the Advocacy Alliance programing, Campus Recreation is putting on a series called “The First Line of Self-Defense is Self-Awareness,” which features hour-long workshops on seven topics including such as, “Are you concerned about your relationship?” and “New on the job, safely entering the workforce.”
The programs are taught by Anne Sheaff, who teaches a self-defense class.
“We don’t want to take a ‘pound your head into the ground,’ ‘be scared’ approach to self defense,” said Mary Wafer-Johnston the Director for the Collins Fitness Center. “We wanted to take an approach so people can be aware and not get themselves into dangerous situations.”
Wafer-Johnston said she wants to create a space where students are able to talk about issues they might not be comfortable talking about.
“What do you do if you’re in a fraternity and a drunk girl passes out in your room? What is your responsibility? You might not know her, you might not be friends with her. Does anyone ever sit down and talk to you about that?” Wafer-Johnston said.
They also did a program about self-awareness for the international students, to address both how to safely navigate Tulsa and to discuss cultural norms.
Sheaff’s background is in martial arts. While some of her classes teach physical defense tactics, others are entirely discussion. “99 percent of self-defense is mental. It’s how you carry yourself,” said Sheaff. “The number one thing is to be proactive and avoid potentially dangerous situations.”
Sheaff said that she and Wafer-Johnston sat down and tried to determine what classes they thought students would be interested in talking about and learning about. “We’re still experimenting about what works.”