If you’re a junior this semester, you may have noticed an email in your inbox informing you that you will be required to take a sexual assault prevention course called Haven. The training is a new requirement for juniors, and builds upon the Respect and Responsibility training required of all incoming freshmen and transfer students.
“It builds on the Respect and Responsibility class and is a little more in-depth on issues of gender violence,” said Ellyn Bartges, Equity & Affirmative Action Officer and Title IX Coordinator for SCSU. Bartges spoke at the Student Government meeting on Jan. 21 about the importance of requiring additional training for students on the issue of gender violence.
Bartges opened her address to Student Government by asking the committee how many of them knew someone who had been sexually assaulted in their life. All but one committee member raised their hand.
“It is an epidemic in our country,” said Bartges. “There’s no greater impediment to a student who is a victim of gender violence to finishing school than to have to sit in a class with a person that assaulted them, or to live on the same residence floor, or any number of other things where you would see them in close proximity where one doesn’t feel safe.”
According to Bartges, confronting sexual assault and gender-related violence is just as much an issue today as it was decades ago, which is why sexual harassment prevention training remains crucial in workplaces and on campuses.
“Statistically, 1 in 5 women are victims of sexual violence, that’s 20 to 25 percent,” said Bartges. “That data has proven to be consistent longitudinally over the last 40 years.”
When asked about possible student resistance to taking the new course, Bartges emphasized that, aside from the benefit of becoming more educated on an important issue, taking sexual assault training looks good on resumes because many employers require such training as well.
“What are you going to do when you go out into the workplace and you have to take one of these things every year?” asked Bartges. Ultimately, she said, everyone has a responsibility to become educated on this issue whether it makes them uncomfortable or not.
“People are afraid of things they don’t know,” said Bartges. “For us, ignorance is dangerous and it has significant consequences for people who are victims of these crimes.”
Adding to the discussion, Senator Madeline McLeod agreed that the new training was important, and suggested that students should be required to take even more sexual assault education.
“Why not every year?” McLeod asked. “I think this is an important thing that needs to be taught. This is a common issue.” Bartges responded by saying that many universities do require such training of their students yearly.
When questions arose about enforcement of the classes and the possibility of putting a hold on registration until a student takes the class, Bartges responded with hesitation towards that approach.
“We’re cautious about doing course holds,” said Bartges. “We will look at that option, but the problem is students often wait until the last minute for things. That causes problems.”
There are two parts to the Haven course. Students taking the course were to have completed Part 1 by Jan. 29. Part 2 will be available from Feb. 29 through March 18. Students must score 75 percent on each part to pass.
SCSU is also currently working on getting a new sexual assault prevention training program for staff and faculty.