UI seeks peer educators on sexual misconduct

The Women’s Resource and Action Center will implement a new sexual violence prevention program in January 2017.

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UI seeks peer educators on sexual misconduct

Vladimir Kulikov

Vladimir Kulikov

Vladimir Kulikov

Marissa Payne, [email protected]

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As the reported number of sexual assaults continues to increase, the campus community has felt a heightened sense of urgency to address the issue of sexual violence.

In response, the University of Iowa is empowering students to educate others on sexual assault through its new Sexual Assault Prevention Peer Prevention Trainer program.

Khirin Carter, the UI coordinator of the violence-prevention program, said the 10 certified peer educators who will be selected to participate in the program will receive training in areas such as the dynamics of sexual assault and domestic violence, cultural humility and diversity, and bystander intervention. With this training, students will facilitate violence prevention workshops across campus.

The Women’s Resource & Action Center is accepting applications for the position until Nov. 21. Students hired for the program will have a flexible work schedule and receive stipends of $500 per semester. Thirty hours of training are required once the program starts in January 2017.

The idea of a peer-led program arose from other institutions after discussing ways to raise awareness about sexual violence, said Linda Kroon, the WRAC director. She noted UI President Bruce Harreld enthusiastically backed the idea, though coordinated efforts to combat sexual violence began with a six-point plan during former UI President Sally Mason’s term.

“Folks who are trained in this have an effect on their campus far beyond the workshops they provide,” Kroon said. “Once you have this knowledge, it seems to be really motivating for folks to make use of it in every possible way.”

Educating students about sexual violence is more effective when the instruction comes from peers, Carter said.

“Being able to hear that message from a peer — someone who looks like these students or speaks a very similar language — will allow that message to be strengthened,” she said. “Students are better able to connect with their peers.”

Additionally, Carter said the WRAC will aim to select a diverse group of students for the program. Cody Howell, a violence-prevention specialist, agreed this was key to truly reaching students.

“We think it’s critical that the students out there represent all voices on campus,” he said. “Every face is important; every voice is important. Having a good group of diverse, inclusive student leaders up there speaking to other students creates a message and helps drive it home that this campus is so much more than just certain students.”

Shifting the culture that has normalized sexual violence is a major goal of the program, Carter said. The students tasked with educating their peers in this program hopes to make that change by focusing outreach efforts on incoming UI students and students involved with greek life.

UI student Jill Oberhart, who is involved with the WRAC as a volunteer facilitator, said reaching students early on in their college careers is important. On Iowa, a freshman-orientation event the week before fall classes begin, has a sexual-misconduct training component.

“Having [sexual misconduct training] at On Iowa gives us the opportunity to give these resources to these freshmen and incoming students … just so they know that if something were to occur, they do have resources here, confidential resources as well,” she said.

Another volunteer facilitator, UI student Jackie Chu, acknowledged the necessity of educating students about the issue during On Iowa. However, she said awareness should be expanded beyond this program to get the message across to students that the UI will not tolerate sexual violence.

“On our campus, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about sexual violence in general,” she said. “With bystander intervention and violence-prevention education, we can better educate students on campus about what sexual violence is, how it can happen to anyone, what are some red flags to look for in perpetrators.”