West Virginia University’s Office of Wellness and Health Promotion is encouraging WVU students to take a stand against sexual assault and street violence by participating in a bystander intervention program.
Expanding upon WELLWVU’s Green Dot program, which aims to reduce violence in communities, WVU’s Office of Wellness and Health Promotion is implementing its WELLAware initiative, a program aimed toward reducing the harmful effects and occurrences of sexual assault, stalking, bullying and dating violence.
According to a recent study conducted by the White House’s Office of the Press Secretary, “one in five women is sexually assaulted while in college.” This study states that the assault usually takes place during a woman’s freshman or sophomore year of college.
It is also stated in this report that although fewer, men are also victimized, and neither gender is likely to report the occurrence of the assault to officials.
Wesley Thomas, Male Engagement Specialist for WVU’s Office of Wellness and Health promotion, said the goal of this program is to train and educate students on what sexual assault and street violence are, as well as how to safely intervene if students see a fellow peer in a potentially damaging situation.
“You want (students) to know what they can do as individuals,” Thomas said. “It helps to clarify any misconceptions as to what sexual assault is.”
Students who choose to participate in WELLAware training sessions will have the opportunity to become peer educators for the local community and WVU campus, where they will gain adequate knowledge on how to appropriately intervene and help other WVU students or community members who may be in a violent environment.
“We want to grow this pro-social movement of having each other’s backs,” said Alison Tartaglia, health education specialist for WVU’s Office of Wellness and Health Promotion.
Tartaglia said this program will allow students to become heavily involved with important issues present across universities all over the United States. Because students are more likely to listen to other students rather than officials, Tartaglia said students should carry forward the message of taking a stand against violent behavior within University communities.
“You don’t have to be the person that specifically steps in,” Tartaglia said. “But there are a lot of ways to intervene.”
Tartaglia said safe ways to intervene in a potentially distressing situation include contacting University officials or contacting the police.
In a recent report conducted by U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, aimed to provide grants to campus in order to reduce sexual assault and domestic violence, “estimates of dating violence among college students range from 10 percent to 50 percent.”
Development for WELLAware began during the Fall 2015 semester.
If interested in becoming a peer educator for the program, contact officials at WVU’s Office of Wellness and Health Promotion. For more information on the bystander intervention program or any of WELLWVU’s other wellness and health promotion programs, visit http://well.wvu.edu/.