Tue. Oct 20th, 2020

The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Sexual assault prevention specialist, new programs sustain UMW values

4 min read
By ESTER SALGUERO A soon to be announced full­-time sexual assault prevention specialist will be added to the University of Mary Washington’s staff after September 10, according to Marissa Miller, the coordinator for Prevention and Advocacy at UMW.

Suzanne Carr Rossi | The Free Lance-Star


A soon to be announced full­-time sexual assault prevention specialist
will be added to the University of Mary Washington’s staff after
September 10, according to Marissa Miller, the coordinator for
Prevention and Advocacy at UMW.

The specialist will take over much of the responsibilities that have
been distributed between Leah Cox, the Title IX coordinator and

Miller has worked as a group member of UMW’s sexual assault task force
to begin implementing certain programs toward sexual assault
awareness. However, according to Miller, the workload is so hefty that
a specialist is simply necessary.

Consequently, the university’s task force for sexual assault awareness
is specifically asking for a specialist to take over most of the
responsibilities. Miller’s main title at UMW is the Associate
Coordinator of Judicial Affairs. Therefore, in order to promote
awareness and help victims of sexual assault, Miller has taken on
extra responsibilities at UMW.

Awareness for the need for a sexual assault specialist, however, came
from the issues that arose on campus this past year, which includes a
sexually explicit chant that was recorded at a party off campus and
threatening messages on Yik­Yak, an anonymous location ­based app.

Along with the addition of a specialist, a number of effective
prevention programs are on their way to authentication. One of the
most important programs is the upcoming Bystander Intervention
program, which will take place from Sept. 7 to 11. Club leaders,
athletes and the executive boards of different organizations will be
asked to participate in the program.

The Bystander Intervention program is an effort to inform incoming
freshmen on consent, how to get involved in preventing sexual assault
and what it means to be an informed bystander.

Along with the Bystander Intervention program, a campus-­wide survey
will be available for both students and staff members conducted by
either Dr. Cox or the full-­time sexual assault specialist, according
to Miller.

The Climate survey, it is called, will be used to help the sexual
assault prevention coordinators access factual data on the prevalence
of sexual assault at UMW. To create additional awareness for sexual
assault, there will be a two to three hour interactive online tutorial
called “Think About It,” operated by CampusClarity.

CampusClarity, which was created in 2013 by the University of San
Francisco, is readily available to any university in the United States
and focuses on training sexual assault prevention and education while
complying with Title IX. The program, which is used in nearly 200
schools, and the University of San Francisco won the National
Association of Student Personnel Administrators award in its Violence
Education and Prevention category.

Students such as Megan Rebennack, senior American Studies major,
believe that the full time position is necessary for the UMW campus.

“A full time prevention specialist is, in my opinion, a great idea and
it is definitely a step in the right direction,” Rebennack said.

For other students, peer advocacy, something that Miller touched on as
a very important aspect to making these programs effective, would be
something they want to see.

Freshman Bradley Veerhoff said that, “I think it would be very
interesting to see my peers participating in these exercises.”

Along with peer advocacy, Miller stated that all staff members are now
being trained more rigorously in student resources and what their
positions are as mandated reporters in regards to Title IX.

This training will also be extended to the students, though not
without reward. This year, the freshman class were given participation
points for different activities, especially the forum covering sexual
assault by scanning their EagleOne cards. Although orientation week
covers topics such as sexual assault, there is not an incentive to
make sure all students participate.

With the new program, however, each student is required to take the 2­
or 3 hour course before Dec. 1. A support group, led by students and
directed by the Talley Center, will also begin this fall after two
years. The group will be held in the Talley Center, in case a student
may want to see a counselor after the meetings for additional support
in dealing with feelings of trauma.

With all of these programs being put into action, Miller, along with
the other members of the taskforce and coordinators of sexual assault
prevention, hope to see students coming forward and tackling sexual
assault issues on campus. Other UMW staff members will be working on
promoting student resources and learning how to react to these types
of circumstances.

Although Miller sees UMW’s dedication to student safety and its
progression towards sexual assault prevention, other students, such as
Feminists United President Julia Michels, would not say the same about
UMW being a progressive school.

While Michels does believe that awareness of sexual assault has become
a priority at UMW, she does not believe that administrators have
responded quickly and effectively enough.

Progressing towards a community with preventative measures against
sexual assault requires the effort of all students and staff members
as a whole, according to Michels.

“I think Mary Washington has the potential…I think we are at a point
where we could really kind of step out in front of other schools and
be the leader,” Michels said.

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