Campus-wide discussion on how to prevent sexual assault

SarahTansit_Brookyimer-07EDITEDBy Cassy Sottile

News Editor

Washington College is one of many institutions that is a part of the It’s On Us program, a national platform that brings in bystander awareness to emphasize that it is not the responsibility of one person or department, but the whole of a community to stop sexual assault on campus, according to Sexual Assault Response Advocates (S.A.R.A.) Coordinator and Assistant Director of Student Engagement Sarah Tansits.

“Students can be involved by being active bystanders. The programming sessions we held last week to create a space where students can tell me how they want to combat sexual assault on campus and how we can stop it,” Tansits said.

The It’s On Us program began last spring when Tansits became the Coordinator of the S.A.R.A. team.

“Along with my S.A.R.A. intern, I wanted to change the conversation around sexual assault and to work more on bystander intervention and really getting students involved to prevent it from occurring and being proactive instead of reactive,” Tansits said.

There will be open sessions Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. and Oct. 15 at 4 p.m. to discuss resources as well as a potential peer advocacy and resource model.

“As a campus community, we do not accept nor condone rape culture or the behavior of sexual assault. I think students can help with the mission by coming to the open information sessions and participating in bystander intervention trainings,” Tansits said.

Besides talking to Tansits, there are other on campus resources for students affected by sexual assault. Counseling Services, located in Queen Anne’s House is a confidential resource for students who are survivors of sexual assault and rape. Tansits and the other S.A.R.A. team members are trained to help and advocate for survivors and can be reached via the S.A.R.A. hotline at 410-699-0742.

All S.A.R.A. team members are mandated reporters, which means they are required to report information that is shared with them with the on campus Title IX Coordinator, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Candace Wannamaker. Students can talk to resident assistants and peer mentors, who are trained to help sexual assault survivors, but RAs are mandated reporters. Students can also call Public Safety at 410-778-7810.

According to the WC Title IX policy, sexual misconduct, in connection with any College program whether on or off campus, is prohibited, including but not limited to academic, educational, extra-curricular, athletic, and residential programs.

“The Title IX regulations on campus assures that no person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal aid,” Wannamaker said.

Off-campus resources for students include For All Seasons, who are confidential and located behind the school next to Domino’s.

WC will soon offer a tele-counseling option for students who may be off campus or studying abroad. The College will release more information about this new resource later this year, according to Wannamaker.

“There is always support, and [students] get to propel the process forward at their own pace. We want to provide resources and remedies so that students are able to be in control of their process,” Wannamaker said.

The It’s On Us campaign is used to generate a conversation about sexual assault at the College in order to change rape culture and take an active role in ensuring that the campus community is recognizing that it is a community conversation, according to Wannamaker.

“Sarah Tansits is holding information sessions so we can present the information to students in a way that would be most helpful to them,” Wannamaker said. “It’s a time when we need to bring these conversations out into the open and show our support for one another.”

This program encourages everyone to stand together to stop this behavior before it occurs, according to Tansits.

Through the It’s On Us program, the community gains perspective from a sexual assault survivor’s point of view.

“[It’s On Us] helps those who have been harmed learn what they can do and educate the community as a whole about what everything means,” Peer Mentor junior Kellen Hanley said.

At the upcoming information sessions, Tansits hopes to spread awareness about the mission of the program.

“I think it is important to have student voices in the conversation to end sexual assault and rape on campuses across the United States,” Tansits said. “If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you did nothing wrong. You are cared for, belong here, and you are believed.”

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