PREVENTING RELATIONSHIP VIOLENCE ON CAMPUS
Relationship violence (sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking) is incredibly distressing and disruptive to a person's life. Often, these crimes affect a victim-survivor's ability to learn, work, and continue on with their daily lives. Victim-survivors can seek support services on- and off-campus so that they do not have to go through the recovery process alone; however, responding to incidents as they occur is not enough. Our campus must take steps to reduce these cases by preventing violence from occurring in the first place.
Violence is not normal
Relationship violence is a part of our culture in part because we normalize it and make excuses for it. With the collective power of our campus community, we can shift toxic norms and attitudes in more healthy and safe directions. That is why the Healthy Relationships Team (HEART) has developed a prevention education program to help shift norms, attitudes, and behaviors that allow relationship violence to exist in our campus community.
Here are some ways to start preventing violence now
At EdCC, the saying goes that "Community is our middle name." This means that each individual is part of a larger learning environment. It also means that each member of our community plays an important role in keeping the campus safe and healthy. In order to protect our campus, we must all think about ways we can be better friends, colleagues, and neighbors.
1. Use your teaching platform
HEART is a resource for students and college employees who want to learn about the following prevention topics:
- How to recognize problematic, unhealthy, and abusive behavior
- How to build skills for healthy relationships and sexuality
- Ways to intervene and interrupt violence
- Ways to promote healthy masculinity
- Dispelling myths about victim-survivors and false reporting
- Strategies for reducing harmful social norms, such as hostility towards women and the normalization of violence
Educators from campus and community organizations are available to give group presentations, guest-facilitate meetings, or assist with other prevention and awareness activities in any department on campus.
Request a presentation
The HEART Prevention Team is comprised of educators from the Wellness Center, Counseling and Resource Center, and Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County (DVS). We try our best to accommodate any and all requests for speakers for as much time as you can allow -- even if that is 5 minutes!
Learn more about the campus education programs HEART now offers
2. Commit to learning more about prevention
Be aware and informed about the dynamics of sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, and stalking. Due in part to the national coverage of conversations about violence on college campuses, there are more resources than ever before on these topics.
Learn more about healthy relationships, relationship violence, and bystander intervention
3. Help keep our community healthy and safe
In order to prevent or respond to violence, we must all have the ability to recognize the signs of abuse and mistreatment. Pay attention to your surroundings, trust your instincts when you notice problematic behavior, and be ready to take action when you see something that is not right.
If you see something, say something
Report child abuse and neglect to DSHS.
Report all other incidents to the Behavior Intervention Team.
If you see something, do something
In most situations that lead to sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking, there are opportunities when people can intervene. Interrupting violence does not always require a "culminating event," such as rape or a couple fighting. Instead, there are hundreds of little interactions, comments, gestures, and other clues that lead up to what we think of as a violent act.
Recognize if there is a problem
Healthy behavior is respectful, safe, age-appropriate, playful, and/or mutually flirtatious. Problematic behavior inappropriate, not mutual, controlling, harassing, abusive, violent, or making someone afraid. If the behavior looks inappropriate, not mutual, harassing, abusive, or violent, then you can do something to help.
Take responsibility to act
It's not always easy to do the right thing. In situations where there is abuse or assault, people often find it overwhelming and choose to do nothing. However, research suggests that bystander intervention works to prevent violence when people take personal responsibility AND have confidence in their ability to act.
Even if other bystanders are present...
Even if you feel uncertain...
Even if it doesn't appear "urgent" to others...
Even if you think someone else might do a better job...you can do something to help.
Direct - Distract - Delegate
Not everyone will respond to a situation in the same way. Find an approach that feels right for you. Make sure to assess the danger in a situation, and know when to get support for safety reasons.
If you decide to take direct action, you could call out the bad behavior or appeal to the friendship you have with the person. Make it clear that what the person is doing is not OK. Be direct and use "I" or "We" statements. You could say, "It makes me uncomfortable when...," "Hey, that's not cool," or " "We don't do that here. When talking to a friend, frame your concern in a caring and non-critical way. You could say something like, "It's probably not your intention, but I think what you are saying is making people feel unsafe. Maybe we could go talk about it privately."
If you would rather be a distraction, this can be a good way to give a target of violence time to get away. If you see someone harassing another person, tell them their car is getting towed. Or, try staring. Make sure that the offender knows that you are a witness. Sometimes a long, silent stare may be all that is necessary to stop their behavior.
Even delegating responsibility to others is a way to be a safe and active bystander. Taking action can be easier with support. You could ask a friend to help you with a difficult conversation. Or you could call a trusted authority for help. Make sure to assess the situation for safety and decide a course of action that will minimize harm. 1,2
Support a friend or colleague in need
People who are affected by relationship violence often feel isolated and that no one truly understands what they are going through. Show someone you are non-judgmental, trustworthy, and that you care about their well-being. The sooner that you reach out to that person, the more likely that violence can be prevented in the future.
Learn more about bystander intervention
Do you want to be more involved in preventing relationship violence on campus?
Join the HEART Coordinated Community Response Team
We are always looking for more members of the campus community (especially students!) to guide our prevention efforts. Join our prevention subcommittee to help develop new educational materials. Or consult with us so that we can make our program more effective and student-centered.
HEART also works with classes, clubs, or passionate individuals looking for experience in service learning, practicum, and internships.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Tabachnick, J. (2009). Engaging Bystanders in Sexual Violence Prevention. Retrieved from National Sexual Violence Resource Center: www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/Publications_NSVRC_Booklets_Engaging-Bystanders-in-Sexual-Violence-Prevention.pdf.
2. Law Room. (2016). Bridges: Building a Supportive Community. Law Room Training by Everfi. Retrieved from: lawroom.com.