Photo by Connor Burnard / Contributing Photographer
Story by Caleb Revill / Contributing Writer
With spring break approaching, sexual assault and bystander intervention were the topics of discussion at the MTSU Scholars Academy “Step Up” training seminar.
Barbara Scales, Director of the June Anderson Center for Women & Nontraditional Students, explained how the Step Up program was created.
“We knew that sexual assault and domestic violence and power-based violence occurred on campus. So we needed to come up with a way to empower our students when they see violence occurring,” Scales said.
Students learned how to spot potential sexual assault, as well as the steps needed to intervene and stop sexual assault before it occurs. Speakers discussed things to look out for, including a person’s demeanor and mutual consent.
Students also participated in a demonstration where they were able to act out intervening as a bystander.
The bystander effect — when one assumes that someone else will help an individual being assaulted — was also a topic discussed. Students were taught the importance of being an active bystander rather than a passive bystander.
After learning how to identify a potential sexual assault, students were shown informative videos on how to prevent it by using the “3 D’s”: Direct, distract and delegate. Depending on the situation, students were shown examples of how to protect someone from becoming a victim.
It was explained that even if a bystander does not have the courage to direct someone away or cause a distraction, they are still able to delegate by notifying a figure of authority.
Jessica Harris, a social work major and member of Scholars Academy, attended the bystander awareness training seminar.
“The videos were very helpful because I’m a visual learner. Personally, the seminar taught me better ways to handle being out alone, or if I’m ever in danger, and what I can do to help other people,” Harris said.
Amy Dean, MTSU’s Sexual Assault Liaison, spoke to students about her work to take care and assist victims of sexual violence.
“I am here with Ms. Barbara Scales from the Women’s Center to assist in facilitating the bystander intervention training, and I am passionate about bystander intervention because of the incident that happened to me,” Dean said.
Dean proceeded to tell the story of her sexual assault in 1994 when she was a Murfreesboro police officer. Luckily, she was able to escape and, having no idea of whom to ask for help, told a friend about what happened.
This incident prompted her personal investment in bystander intervention.
“I’m very passionate about bystander training and bystander intervention, in that, had there been someone there for me, I wouldn’t have been standing out in the middle of the road by myself thinking ‘what do I do?’ I would have had someone there with me to be able to say ‘It’s okay, you’re not alone’” Dean said.
Dean stressed that although she was a police officer for 33 years, she now works as a civilian. This means that whatever is discussed between a victim and her remains completely confidential, unless otherwise stated by the victim.
MTSU has a “No Closed Doors” policy. Victims of sexual assault are encouraged to utilize MTSU’s resources, which can be found here.
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