Shining the spotlight on college sexual violence prevention!
College of St. Scholastica revolutionizes sexual violence prevention
Going beyond bystander to proactive campus environment change
Embed prevention everywhere in the campus. This is the core sexual violence message at Duluth's College of St. Scholastica and also what makes the college's efforts so unique. Their work goes far beyond telling women how to keep themselves safe, teaching students about consent, focusing on bystander intervention, and asking guys to 'walk a mile in her shoes.'
Tad Sears, Director of the Student Center for Health and Well Being and Lexie Generous, Coordinator of the Violence Intervention and Prevention Program say that embedding means transforming the policies and practices across campus to include an understanding of sexual violence.
This approach includes identifying where campus sexual violence is occurring and the social environments that are allowing it to happen, but it also means engaging leaders across campus to incorporate sexual violence prevention into day to day life. "From current classes and dorm halls, to parties, locker rooms and fitness rooms the key," Generous says, "is to make violence prevention and healthy relationship promotion a part of the integral fabric of how our institution operates."
Ed Heisler and Chuck Derry of the Minnesota Men's Action Network (MNMAN) have developed a long term partnership with St. Scholastica in the development of this environmental approach. Heisler states, "It is extremely exciting to work with a campus that is committed to proactively shaping the environment in all sectors of the campus for prevention and gender equity. St. Scholastica is willing to blaze an innovative and creative trail that will shape their campus environment to prevent sexual violence for the long haul. They are raising the bar for campus prevention efforts."
Shaping party culture to prevent sexual violence is a particularly unique facet of St. Scholastica's work with MN-MAN. MNMAN's BEST Party Model, partially funded through the Minnesota Department of Health, acknowledges that parties are a central part of the recreational and social experience of college students, and helps students upgrade their parties so respect and safety for women are the norm.
Derry explains, "BEST is a highly innovative primary prevention strategy coming out of Duluth. It engages male and female college students as leaders who understand how to shape their social environments to promote gender equity, respect, and safety. Ultimately, students are working to create a more amazing party scene where it is safe to have fun."
Why do St. Scholastica and their partners conceptualize prevention work this way? Because, they say, prevention requires a cultural change – a shift from norms promoting the trivialization and acceptance of violence, harmful socialization and gender inequality, and the silencing of victims, to those promoting the idea that sexual violence is a choice and all people, particularly men, need to work to prevent it.
"Connecting this work to the founding values of the Benedictine Heritage – respect, community, and hospitality – is core to the need to make our campus free of violence," says Sears.
Last year, the College of St. Scholastica was awarded a federal grant from the Office on Violence Against Women to further campus prevention efforts. With the increased campus-wide focus on sexual violence, St. Scholastica will likely see a jump in reports of sexual violence, not because the incidence is increasing, but because victims will feel more encouraged to make reports to authorities.
As MDH's first Campus Spotlight, St. Scholastica is illuminating a path for other campuses to take their prevention efforts to the next level—beyond raising awareness and promoting bystander intervention to proactively shaping the social environment. Prospective students and parents should take note, the College of St. Scholastica is leading efforts to create a safe campus environment—and producing students bound to be leaders in shaping the culture of the future.
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Interested in learning more about campus sexual violence prevention? Visit our portal, at: Sexual Violence Prevention Campus Portal
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