SU teams with Center for Court Innovation, Vera House on novel approach to gender violence prevention
SU teams with Center for Court Innovation, Vera House on novel approach to gender violence preventionSeptember 06, 2006Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
Syracuse University will join the Center for Court Innovation (CCI) and Vera House in a unique community-university program aimed at reducing gender violence through a new training model led by student facilitators.
The project, the Syracuse Partnership for Violence Prevention, is funded through a $200,000 grant to the Center for Court Innovation from the U.S. Department of Education. The partnership will bring the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program to the SU and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry campuses. The partnership is a collaborative effort involving the Syracuse University Rape: Advocacy, Prevention and Education (R.A.P.E) Center, the Office of Student Life and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs at SU; the Office of Student Life at ESF; Vera House; and the CCI.
Organizers say recent research indicates that college women are at greater risk for rape and other forms of sexual assault than either non-student women in their age group or women in general, underscoring the need for a prevention program that is geared toward involving both men and women in examining attitudes that lead to sexual violence and working together to confront those attitudes.
“The goal is to have male and female peers provide the training,” says Janet Epstein, associate director of the University R.A.P.E. Center. “This is not just a women’s issue, it’s everyone’s issue.”
Former NFL star and SU All-American Football quarterback Don McPherson ’87, executive director of the Sports Leadership Institute at Adelphi University, returned to SU during Opening Weekend to talk to incoming students about understanding attitudes, social influences and behaviors that lead to the perpetration of violence against women. McPherson has addressed incoming students at SU since 2003.
The R.A.P.E. Center is dedicated to promoting awareness and education about sexual violence. Despite these efforts, the reports of incidents of sexual assault to the University R.A.P.E. Center by SU/ESF students have remained relatively unchanged since 2002.
The project is intended to build on the outreach already done at the University. “There is need for a prevention approach that takes our efforts to the next level,” says Juanita Perez Williams, associate dean of students.
MVP, founded in 1993 at Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society, is a gender violence prevention and education program that motivates young adults to play a central role in solving problems — such as rape, relationship violence and sexual harassment — that have historically been considered “women’s issues.”
Four staff members from SU, two from the Center for Court Innovation and three from Vera House attended the MVP Institute for Gender Violence Prevention and Education, held Aug. 7?9 in Boston. Having completed this training, they will help to implement the program on the local level, training the initial class of peer educators and providing guidance to the peer educators as the program moves forward. In the initial stages, the project will be implemented within fraternities and sororities at SU. Sixty-four students — four each from eight fraternities and eight sororities — will be recruited to be the initial class of peer educators, says Roy Baker, director of fraternity and sorority affairs in the Office of Student Life.
The MVP program is based on the perspective that students are not simply potential perpetrators or victims, but can be empowered bystanders who confront their abusive peers. An MVP Playbook is used by peer facilitators to guide discussion on issues such as sexual harassment, acquaintance rape, relationship violence and alcohol and consent. Video clips from popular culture are used to supplement the discussion.
It is envisioned that nearly 900 student members of the Greek system will have been trained by mid-2008. The long-term goal is to make the MVP program available to all SU and ESF students.