RSVP, LIVE, S.A.R.A.H. aim to provide support, educate students on sexual assault

| Contributing Reporter

To combat the issue of sexual assault on campus, Washington University offers numerous sexual assault prevention and education programs and services for students—especially those who have experienced an incident—which include the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center, Leaders in Interpersonal Violence Education and Sexual Assault and Rape Anonymous Helpline.

On the Association of American Universities campus climate survey, 22.6 percent of female Washington University undergraduates reported having been sexually assaulted. Student Life’s 2017 sex survey, while not obtained through a scientific process, showed a similar statistic with 19.24 percent of Washington University students reporting as having been sexually assaulted.

The Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) Center is a community health resource that works to provide prevention education along with response and support to victims of sexual and relationship violence. RSVP facilitates three different class education programs: The Date, #RewindBlurredLines and Stand By Me.

Apart from Stand By Me, which is an online program for sophomores, the programs are student-led and use live theater to engage students, which Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention Specialist Austin Sweeney feels makes these programs better.

“We want the group’s work to be student-driven and student-led because I think violence prevention work is really powerful when it is student-driven,” Sweeney said.

The RSVP Center’s most recent sexual assault prevention initiative is the Green Dot program, which focuses on bystander intervention training.

Sweeney noted that this program allows students to expand upon mandatory bystander trainings they are exposed to during orientation.

“What we like a lot about Green Dot is that it is an opportunity for students to get involved with violence prevention work beyond ‘The Date’ and orientation programming,” Sweeney said.

“We also talk about the very real issue of barriers when it comes to interventions and we wrap the training up talking about ways that we can proactively get involved in these issues in the community.”

Under the guidance of the RSVP Center, the Leaders in Interpersonal Violence Education (LIVE) program is a student organization geared toward empowering members of the University community to take a stand against sexual violence.

Junior Michael Collins, LIVE’s co-president, said that LIVE and RSVP work together closely, but that LIVE has additional opportunities to work closely with students.

“We do a lot of the things that [RSVP] can’t, which is student facing things,” Collins said. “We have access to [Student Union] funding, so that also helps us. So, it really is a close partnership and specializing us in where we’re best-suited and playing off of those strengths.”

Students can apply to join LIVE in the fall to take part in training or to become peer educators. Those admitted to the program undergo a 30-hour training process that involves interpersonal violence education, and then students are assigned a committee within the LIVE community. LIVE also hosts programs every month, ranging from movie screenings to panels to pop-up discussions, which are free and which program coordinators feel are relevant to the University community.

For students who have experienced sexual assault, Sexual Assault and Rape Anonymous Helpline (S.A.R.A.H.). is a hotline that focuses on response aspects of a sexual assault case and offers anonymous and confidential student support. Students who wish to answer helpline calls for S.A.R.A.H. must first complete 100 hours of training.

Sweeney said that S.A.R.A.H. volunteers have the tools to help students who have experienced sexual violence through their trainings.

“[S.A.R.A.H. members] are there to really provide support and guidance to students who have experienced the kind of violence that we are also working to prevent at the RSVP Center,” Sweeney said. “They are well-trained, and they have upfront education, and then they have ongoing education throughout the year.”

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