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Sexual Violence Prevention at Colgate University

Project Overview

A video and peer education seminar that address sexual assault and relationship violence at Colgate University.

Identifying the Problem

Since she was a college student, Kimmie has been committed to raising awareness about and supporting survivors of sexual assault and relationship violence. While in college, she served as a teaching assistant for a course titled “Leadership and Violence Prevention,” and she currently serves on a domestic violence hotline in her local community. The number of people she knows affected by such violence continues to grow and she believes it is one of the foremost social issues of our time. 

Kimmie’s current position at Colgate University's Center for Women's Studies has only heightened her awareness of these issues on college campuses. According to Colgate’s 2009 Campus Climate Survey, more than 70% of Colgate students reported experiencing sexual harassment. “While Colgate possesses many people willing to provide support, there is not one visual conglomeration of these stakeholders, or of available confidential and non-confidential resources,” says Kimmie. Colgate had not offered any formal training opportunity regarding sexual assault and relationship violence to students, faculty, and staff members in the past year. Through conversations with students who felt unsupported, as well as her own observations, Kimmie concluded that while there were myriad resources available to assist primary and secondary survivors, they were not well-known. This reality is not unique to Colgate, and Kimmie wanted to create a project that would create a proactive, rather than reactive environment when it comes to preventing and responding to sexual assault and relationship violence.

Creating A Solution

While Kimmie had been planning to create and offer a violence prevention seminar, it was her colleague’s vision for an educational and empowering video that incited Kimmie’s involvement in these grassroots projects. Thus, Kimmie decided to confront the issues of sexual assault and relationship violence in two parts: through an educational video, “Be the Change,” and through a violence prevention seminar, “One in Three.” After speaking with her colleague about her vision for what would become “Be the Change,” Kimmie and her colleague immediately organized a meeting comprised of students, faculty, staff and administrators involved in sexual violence prevention at Colgate. Kimmie and her colleague met with this group monthly and communicated via email frequently for three months leading up to the filming of the project in March 2012. Prior to releasing the video, Kimmie and her colleague solicited feedback from committee members, as well as the Women’s Studies Advisory Board and harassment advisors on campus.

Be the Change” was a huge success. The video demonstrates a culture of support from various members of the campus community, links people to on-campus resources, communicates a message of zero tolerance, seeks to increases trust in and use of the reporting process and incites conversations about sexual assault and relationship violence. It brings together oral and visual messages of resources and support to all members of the campus community. Because violence is often referred to solely in statistical terms, it can be difficult to connect with the daily experiences of primary and secondary survivors. “Be the Change” humanizes the issue through the honest sharing of survivors’ experiences and allies’ words of encouragement and support. It also destigmatizes sexual assault and relationship violence by including perspectives from students, faculty, staff and administrators who have been impacted by these issues. 

The second half of Kimmie’s project was to develop a seminar that would bring the issues of sexual assault and relationship violence into the classroom. After conceiving of the idea for “One in Three,” Kimmie immediately reached out to the team advisor of The Network, a student group committed to raising awareness about violence and supporting survivors on campus, who enthusiastically supported the idea and became Kimmie’s partner for the project. The team met biweekly for two months in order to develop the curriculum for the seminar, compiling about 100 pages of handouts and readings, creating a placard to give to certified participants and discussing outreach and publicity. The team worked closely with the coordinator of “Yes Means Yes,” a positive sexuality seminar, in order to offer the course to those who had just completed the seminar and wanted to delve deeper into campus and community issues. 

“One in Three” is a seminar developed to broaden participants’ understanding of dimensions of violence (rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, relationship violence, domestic violence), deepen their knowledge of the social and cultural factors that enable violence to persist and train them as peer educators and allies. The seminar provides an educational venue that is structured to lend itself to additional peer education and activism. With a core group of students and staff trained, they now plan to continue their peer education work by ensuring each residential and Greek area at Colgate has a trained “One in Three” member and by holding activism sessions in order to continue raising awareness about and decrease incidents of sexual assault and relationship violence on campus.

Lessons Learned

During the filming of “Be the Change,” Kimmie and her colleague found it challenging to decide on the appropriate tone and scripting that resonated with what the fifteen-person committee envisioned. She and her colleague also ran into difficulties when she was advertising and screening the video on campus, as they wanted to convey the message that the video was a result of conversations, meetings and time with dozens of stakeholders, rather than a project strictly by the Center for Women’s Studies. The main advice Kimmie would give to anyone attempting to create such a video is to be extremely intentional in both whom you interview and in what message you want to convey. “It was crucial that interviewees had a prepared statement of what they were going to say prior to the filming,” she says. 

The main challenge Kimmie faced with “One in Three” was getting a sizeable number of participants. In retrospect, Kimmie might offer the seminar sooner in the semester when people are not so overbooked. She might also be more targeted in her outreach by offering it to specific classes, groups or organizations on campus.

Kimmie stresses the importance of collaboration when developing a project like this; she had multiple partners for both parts of her project. For “Be the Change,” Kimmie and her colleague worked with the Office of the Dean of the College, The Network, the Counseling Center, Campus Safety, Student Health, LGBTQ Initiatives, the Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education (COVE), Athletics, ALANA Cultural Center, the Office of Residential Life, Sisters of the Round Table (SORT, which is a student group dedicated to issues affecting women of color), University Studies, and the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI). Kimmie’s main partner for “One in Three” was the team advisor for the Network.

Get Involved!

Kimmie, along with the Center for Women’s Studies staff, is continuing to work on ensuring that “Be the Change” is screened more broadly around campus. While the video has been shown at Brown Bag lunches and in classes before lectures, has been sent to all staff and faculty members of the Dean of the College and Dean of the Faculty and the sorority and fraternity presidents, Kimmie hopes to expand its reach. She would also like to share the video as a resource with other campuses and organizations that are committed to violence prevention and are interested in creating and/or screening a video like “Be the Change.” Kimmie encourages anyone interested in the issues of sexual assault and relationship violence to watch the video and to send feedback by  commenting on the YouTube page or by sending an email to Kimmie. And if any other institutions and/or organizations have any resources or advice to share with Kimmie about how to improve the effectiveness of her project, she would love to hear from you!

Funding

“Be the Change” required a camera with video capacity, a computer with video editing software and a printer. She and her colleague interviewed thirty people for the project, who Kimmie and her colleague contacted after reaching out to various departments and organizations on campus for months prior to the filming of the video in March 2012 and its release in April 2012, during Sexual Assault Awareness Week. 

“One in Three” required a computer with email and Microsoft Word, a printer, and the use of a library to rent relevant DVDs to show during the seminar. Ten people participated in this seminar. Similarly to “Be the Change,” Kimmie worked closely with a colleague who advises a group dedicated to raising awareness about and alleviating sexual assault and relationship violence for three months prior to the offering of the seminar. All of these resources were available through Colgate, which is why there were no costs associated with this project.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Denmark Denmark 2011

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