April is the NSVRC’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). During this time, many student organizations who devote their extra-curricular time to advocate on this issue plan and host a series of events related to the prevention of sexual violence. It was no different at UMass Lowell, where I’m currently based, as it was at my previous institution. I love working with student organizations – often where you can find the most able, motivated, and ambitious students – and always make time to offer my assistance during SAAM.
This year was no exception and I was fortunate to be able to connect with UMass Lowell’s ‘No One Left Behind‘ organization: an offshoot of an organization dedicated to the issue of human trafficking, with the mission of raising awareness of sexual violence, particularly on campus. I had attended their inaugural meeting back in my first weeks at UMass Lowell, but had lost track of their progress in the intensity of my first year in a teaching role. Linking with the Psychology Graduate Student Organization (along with other sponsors), I was involved in the development of two events. Now, by ‘I was involved’ I mean I was able to make some off-the-top-of-my-dome suggestions and NOLB/PGSO then provided the creative thinking and hard graft that turns flighty ideas into practical reality!
For the first event, I called-in reinforcements: Prof. Neil Shortland from the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies and Dr. Jane Theriault from the Psychology Dept, both of whom have significant experience applying psychological principles to sexual coercion and violence. Together, we developed a two-part practical workshop on the prevention of sexual violence, using the framework of public health models, and focused towards preventing campus sexual violence. The event covered definitions of sexual coercion and violence, risk and protective factors, global awareness campaigns (primary prevention), bystander intervention (secondary prevention), and the assessment and treatment of perpetrators (tertiary prevention). We mixed information and activities and had fun creating hypothetical prevention campaigns and posing ‘what would you do?’s to the audience.
The second event was sparked by a conversation I had with the current President of the PGSO, Alexa Queenan, over a cup of the Hawk’s Nest‘s award-winning soup. I explained that during the organizing of Penn State’s first Conference on Child Protection and Well-Being, back in 2012, we’d been contacted by a couple of organizations dedicated to male victims of sexual abuse, who rightly pointed out that male victimization had no representation in our program. I suggested that they should diligently and proactively seek to incorporate awareness of male victimization in their event schedule. Duly, the PGSO and NOLB reached out to 1in6, a highly-regarded national organization devoted to providing resources for men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences, who provided expert, vital, and well-tailored advice, support, and resources to our little coterie.
NOLB and the PGSO then set about developing a panel discussion and video screening dedicated to the issue of male victimization. The panel included: Peter Pollard from 1in6, who introduced and defined the issue of male victimization and how society frames male victimization (spoiler alert: not very well); Suzanne Henderson, a SANE nurse at Lawrence General Hospital in Essex County, MA, who provided a medical perspective and outlined how first responders deal with male victimization; and myself, discussing methods of prevention (again!) and focusing the development of a ‘culture of support’ for victims/survivors and ‘equality of opportunity’ in terms of resources for men.
Both were fantastic, well-organized, and reasonably well-attended events, that we’ll be keen to develop and promote further in the future! I’d like to say kudos to all involved, especially NOLB and the PGSO for all their hard work and seemingly-boundless enthusiasm!