Photo and story by Andrew Nation / Contributing Writer
A Middle Tennessee State University Campus Safety Summit was held in the Student Union Building on Thursday. The event covered topics of sexual harassment, how to be safe at bars and what it means to be a bystander.
The summit was organized by MTSU Sexual Assault Liaison Amy Dean. Other speakers included Nashville Sexual Assault Center Outreach Specialist Sharon Travis, Murfreesboro Police Chief Michael Bowen, MTSU Police Chief Buddy Peaster, MTSU Director of Health Promotion Lisa Schrader and Director of the June Anderson Center Barbara Scales.
The event started with Travis telling the audience about the “Safe Bar Initiative,” a program that trains bartenders to spot when a patron is being taken advantage of and what steps are needed in order to prevent it. The training was developed by the Tennessee Department of Health. The Safe Bar Initiative also uses special coasters, which are provided by the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. When a drop of a drink is put on the coasters, they will display whether or not the drink has been drugged.
“There needs to be cooperation between the schools, the police and the bars,” Travis said.
Schrader then spoke about the effects that alcohol has on students. In her presentation, she mentioned a 2007 study by the National Institute of Justice that showed that alcohol is the most commonly used date rape drug. Schrader also displayed statistics provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. According to the NIAAA, at least half of all violent crimes involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, the victim or both.
“I wanted to share one way that we here at MTSU have chosen to do education around alcohol with our students,” Schrader said. “My hope then is that you can take it back with you, and if you find yourself working with college students, you’ll have something to pull from. Substance abuse can be a challenging subject to talk about with students.”
Scales spoke throughout the last hour of the summit and provided the “Power of ONE” presentation, in which she explained the importance of bystander intervention. Scales said that, on average, there are 14 to 21 potential bystanders during a public domestic fight. She showed an interactive video that demonstrated to the audience that it only takes one bystander to confront an assailant in order to prevent a crime. Scales also wanted to show the power of consent by asking if she could use a student’s phone. The volunteer went down to participate but then decided that she did not want Scales to use her phone. Scales was able to use that example to raise a different point.
“Always check in on your partner because consent can change at any moment,” Scales said. “If she decides she doesn’t want it anymore, you stop immediately.”
Dean also had the opportunity to share a story of how she was assaulted during her time as a police officer.
“No one is immune to being a victim,” Dean said. “The best piece of advice I could give to a college student is to take the time, (and) take the opportunity to learn everything you can. Participate in the programs that are afforded here at the university. Be an active person in the experience of the university, (and) learn the tools that will prepare you to be safe when you are out in the community.”
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