Event held to increase bystander awareness during Sexual Assault Prevention Month

Jake Dressman

WKU Counseling Center and Hope Harbor, a sexual trauma recovery center based in Bowling Green hosted an event Thursday in Downing Student Union in collaboration with Sexual Assault Prevention Month.

Londa Stockton, community educator for Hope Harbor, said that one in three girls and one in six boys, will be sexually assaulted by age 18. She mentioned Green Dot, a bystander program that originated at the University of Kentucky, as a way to reduce sexual assault.

Stockton said a five year research study by the Center for Disease Control showed that schools with Green Dot reduced violence by over 30 percent, whereas schools without Green Dot saw an increase in violence.

Changing the culture is about choices and actions, Stockton said, distinguishing between proactive and reactive green dots.

“Proactive is about setting new cultural norms to stop bad things before they happen,” she said. “Reactive is responding to high risk situations.”

To illustrate how students can intervene, Stockton read hypothetical scenarios such as what to do if a student is standing in a food court and sees a couple fighting loudly, and the student is concerned that someone is going to get hurt.

The “three D’s”, or direct, distract and delegate, are strategies people can take in such scenarios, Stockton said. Each of the three D’s were written on signs and carried to separate corners of the room by Hope Harbor volunteers. Students then went to one of the corners and explained why they chose that action.

Although she directly intervened, Stockton said people who are shy and less assertive still have other options to prevent situations where there’s a danger of sexual assault, such as distracting by changing the subject or spilling a drink, as well as delegating the situation to a friend or authority figure.

Stockton challenged the roughly 30 students in attendance to do two green dots in the next 24 hours, which could include something as simple as tweeting about Sexual Assault Prevention Month.

Freshman Hope Dunn said she has always felt safe on campus. She carries pepper spray, and said a lot of other girls on campus she knew did as well. She said she already knew a lot about sexual assault prevention because of her interest in social justice and criminology, but said she was surprised by the statistic about one in six boys being sexually assaulted before 18.  

Senior sociology major Shelby Watson was similarly informed on sexual assault prevention, mentioning how media exposure can both help and hurt the issue.

“Rape culture is sadly normalized,” Watson said. “People putting out content, like a nonchalant joke or comment, can make a world of difference.”

Watson said it’s important people can talk about these stigmatized issues and that media can help turn things around.

Melanie Evans, coordinator with the Office of Student Conduct, said there are various resources available for students on campus.

Evans said students can go to a faculty member, their resident assistant, hall director or advisor, who are responsible employees. They are obligated to report what they hear to the Office of Student Conduct, who will reach out to the student and offer whatever support and resources they can, Evans said.

However, she said that students who want complete confidentiality and clinical assistance should go to the Counseling and Testing Center in Potter Hall.

Elizabeth Madariaga, a licensed clinical professional at the Counseling and Testing Center, said they have someone on call from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays if a student needs immediate assistance, or they can set up an appointment.

“My goal is to make sure you get what you need,” Madariaga said.

Madariaga, who is also the sexual assault services coordinator for the Counseling Center, stressed the importance of students supporting each other.

“It’s about you believing what someone tells you,” she said. “You don’t have to come up with a solution, you just have to believe them.”

Hope Harbor’s next event, first things first, is on Tuesday, April 16 in the DSU Auditorium and will showcase student poetry on issues related to sexual violence and healing.

News reporter Jake Dressman can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]