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GRC to hold assault prevention training

Amanda Gray | Friday, September 25, 2009

The Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI), a part of the Gender Relations Center (GRC), will hold Active Bystander Training to help prevent sexual assaults Friday, Heather Rakoczy Russell, Director of the Gender Relations Center, said.

Active Bystander Training is the first of five signature events for the VPI, Russell said. All of the titles of the events, including Active Bystander Training’s A Time to be Silent, a Time to Speak, are inspired by Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 8.

There are many goals for Active Bystander Training, Russell said.

“The hope is to prepare student leaders to prevent rape and sexual assault at Notre Dame, and to help a friend or survivor of rape or sexual assault, among others,” Russell said. “This is the first time for VPI Active Bystander Training.

“The 2007-2008 academic year was when the GRC formed a VPI Steering Committee to discuss, design and implement VPI at Notre Dame,” she said. “The students on the VPI Steering Committee determined what events might be helpful for the campus community.”

The committee was made up of GRC staff and five undergraduate students, Russell said. VPI had three events last school year.

Active Bystander Training was added to the event schedule this year, along with one other event, Russell said.

“So, the hope is to slowly build ‘scaffolding’ – different kinds of programs around one theme that attract students with varied interests for the common purpose of making campus more safe and knowledgeable about how to effectively do violence prevention on a Catholic campus,” Russell said.

Russell said education about sexual assault could help stop sexual assault from happening.

“Like all college campuses, it is difficult to measure the number of incidents of rape and/or sexual assault at Notre Dame, as it is the most under-reported crime. What we know for certain is that nearly all reported cases of rape and/or sexual assault at Notre Dame involve a situation where one or both people are intoxicated and the alleged perpetrator is known to the survivor,” Russell said. “In other words, these are cases of acquaintance rape, not a proverbial stranger jumping out of the bushes – which means, with education, we hope that most of these incidents could be prevented.”

The University’s Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention (CSAP) released figures about college age sexual assault.

“College-age students are more likely to be raped than any other age group. According to some studies, it is estimated that as many as one in four college women will experience sexual violence during their college years. While most rapes are committed against women, 10 percent of sexual assault victims are men,” according to the CSAP Web site. “Ninety percent of college-age rape victims know the offender. An offender may be a date, friend, or someone the victim knows casually.”

Other events in VPI include Fine Arts Workshop, Sexual Assault Awareness Week, Writing Workshop and a Festival on the Quad.