Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Sarah Jordan Welch, Prevention Educator and Victim Resource Specialist at Project Safe, speaks about the prevalence of sexual assault, what we can do to prevent sexual violence, and resources, programs, and events available to support the Vanderbilt community.
Marissa Wertheimer: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt University Health and Wellness Wellcast. I am Marissa Wertheimer with HealthPlus. April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month, and I am here with Sarah Jordan Welch, Prevention Educator and Victim Resource Specialist at Project Safe. Thank you so much for taking a time to talk today, Sarah. Sarah Jordan Welch: Yeah, happy to talk. Marissa Wertheimer: First, could you give us an overview of how many people experience sexual assault each year? Sarah Jordan Welch: The numbers vary depending on some of the different studies that we are looking at, but one of the most consistent numbers that we see specifically for our college population is that we know that 1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault during their time in college. That is the number that we know to be accurate at Vanderbilt as well based on the campus climate survey that we received back last year and what is really interesting and also terrifying about that statistic is that is a number that we are seeing on almost every single college and university campus across the country. Marissa Wertheimer: What are some strategies that we can implement in the Vanderbilt Community as individuals and as a community to prevent sexual assault? Sarah Jordan Welch: There is a lot, and I think sometimes it can feel like a really overwhelming topic, particularly when you hear those large numbers, you kind of feel like how can we even address something like this, how do we tackle the problem, and there are a couple of really great strategies that we can put into place. So, Vanderbilt has been adopting a program called Green Dot Bystander Intervention program since about 2008 on our campus. It is a national program that is on lots of college and university campuses, and it really is focusing on the role of the bystander. So, previously before sort of I would say the last decade or so, a lot of the focus on sexual assault prevention had been placed on the victims or the people who are experiencing sexual assault. So, people would say why do not we give everyone a whistle or why do not we teach specifically gendered women about how to keep themselves from being safe which apparently is kind of victim blaming and is also not solving the root of the problem. So, a lot of the work we do is talking to all students regardless of gender around what is consent, what are healthy relationships, how do we both hear and say “no” is really important parts of that work, and it is also a lot about the culture that we create contributing to potential violence happening on our campus. So, are there particular practices or parts of organizations that might be potentially victim blaming or potentially harmful in terms of rape culture and things like that, so we try to address a lot of culture change as well to really address some of these issues. And as far as Green Dot goes, the curriculum is really, really great, and a lot of our students receive it. So, all of our incoming students will receive an overview about what Green Dot is and give them some really practical strategies on how do I step in when I see potentially harmful behavior that is happening, how do I engage in a way to keep my community safe, to have conversation or sometimes tough conversation with my friends and a lot of folks receive that training. So, all of our RAs receive the training, all of our receptors receive the training, and all of our IFC incoming members receive the training as well. So, there are a lot of folks in our campus who are really primed to be able to step in when potentially dangerous things are happening. Marissa Wertheimer: Could you please tell our listeners a little bit more about what Project Safe is and some of the programs offered, and if there are any programs or resources offered to Vanderbilt faculty and staff? Sarah Jordan Welch: Part of what I want to be clear about is that Project Safe is a resource that is available to any Vanderbilt community member. So, we certainly do serve a lot of undergraduate students, but we also serve graduate students, faculty, staff, and anyone who has been impacted in anyway by what we call intimate partner violence. So, Project Safe is the entity on our campus that has been designated to serve folks who have been impacted by those things. So that could be domestic violence, dating violence, that could be any sort of sexual violence, stalking, or harassment. Really, all the things we hope are not happening to folks is our job is to kind of address. And I am glad you asked because a lot of times I think that folks assume that our jobs are sort of sitting and nodding our heads and saying that is really hard and all that. We can offer a lot to folks. We offer a lot of programs around understanding effective consent, creating healthy boundaries, supporting a survivor, so how do we support folks in our lives that may be going through something like this. We offer that 24-hour helpline. We offer in-person advocacy. We can help get connected to other resources on campus depending on what the nature of the issue might be. We can accompany folks to court. We also do hospital accompaniment for anyone who comes to our space so folks who are needing support if they are needing to go to the emergency room or hospital support in that way. Any of our prevention trainings are open for staff and faculty as well to attend, and we are also always happy to come speak with organizations or classes or anything that folks feel like they would like, their students, or folks they have worked with to know more about Project Safe. Marissa Wertheimer: Excellent. That is so good know. Personally, I thought Project Safe was only for students. So, it is good to know that it is open to the entire Vanderbilt Community including students, grad students, and faculty, staff. Wonderful! So, are there any events on campus that employees can participate in? Sarah Jordan Welch: Yes, absolutely. So, any of the events that if you look on either Anchor Link or you look on Project Safe Facebook page which is Vanderbilt University Project Safe Center, do like our page, you can go look at our events and all of our events are there, and those are open to the Vanderbilt Community. So, any of the programs that I have talked about, folks can come to and learn a little bit more about what does Project Safe do, what is Green Dot, how can I be supportive to a friend or family member or partner or those kinds of things, and as far as sort of upcoming events too, because sexual assaults awareness month is in April, we have got a lot of events planned. So, just to name a few, we have got programs around the language of violence. We have a graduate of Thistle Farms Program coming to speak. Our biggest event is the Prevention Procession and Survivor Speak Out. So, that is a chance for folks to really be in solidarity with folks who have experienced any kind of sexual violence. You do not have to be a survivor to come. It can be allies or folks who just want to show support. If organizations are interested in lantern decoration or how to get involved in any of the sexual assault awareness month events, please contact us. We are at Projectsafe@vanderbilt.edu, and we are always happy for more participation and more folks to join us. Marissa Wertheimer: Wonderful. Thank you. So, it sounds like you have an abundance of resources, programs, and upcoming events for National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month this April. Sarah Jordan Welch: Yes. Marissa Wertheimer: Thank you so much Sarah Jordan. Do you have anything else that you want to add or anything? Sarah Jordan Welch: I guess I would just say that we as an entity or what is called a limited confidential entity and I want to just be really clear about what that means. So, most of what folks share with us is confidential. There are a few exceptions, but I want to make sure and folks will know about that when they come into our space before they share anything. So, I just want to make folks know that if you are worried about sharing information or if you are worried about people finding out that we are intended to be a safe space for folks to come in and share whatever they are needing to. Marissa Wertheimer: Thank you so much again for your time. Sarah Jordan Welch: Thank you so much. Marissa Wertheimer: Thanks for listening. Please feel free to leave us any comments on this Wellcast on the form at the bottom of this page. If you have a story or suggestion, please email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can use the "Contact Us" page on our website at healthandwellness.vanderbilt.edu. -- end of recording --