Sexual assault is a problem on many college campuses, and while preventative measures are taken, it remains a major issue.
Texas A&M’s Step In, Stand Up campaign is a program offered to those in the A&M network to learn more about having discussions with those who have experienced sexual assault. Traditionally, it has been offered in person in both one and three-hour workshops and overviews, but it has since gone fully online for the fall semester due to COVID-19.
Jazmin Jones, a health promotion specialist within the Division of Student Affairs and Ph.D. student in higher education and administration, is involved in the coordination of Stand Up workshops.
“It’s a trauma-informed workshop, and it talks about really just supporting survivors of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking,” said Jones.
While open to everyone, the workshop is especially relevant for the A&M student body and others in close relationships, said Kristen Harrell, the chairperson for the Sexual Assault Survivors Committee and key contributor to the workshop curriculum.
“One of the key reasons that we created this workshop is because all of the research and some of the climate data we had pulled from the institution showed that survivors most typically are disclosing to a friend or someone close to them before they ever come to a university official,” Harrell said. “What we recognized is that we didn’t have a lot of education for our student body or others who might be in that close relationship on how to have that conversation.”
Stand Up focuses on dialogue with survivors of sexual assault rather than bystander intervention, which is more the focus of A&M’s Green Dot program, said Denise Crisafi, a health promotion and Stand Up coordinator.
“Basically what we are trying to teach them with Stand Up is how to respond in a trauma-informed way to another student, a classmate, a roommate,” Crisafi said. “Maybe it’s friends back home; maybe it’s even a family member like a younger brother or sister or a niece or a nephew who says that they’ve experienced a form of power-based personal violence.”
While COVID-19 has changed the landscape of Stand Up workshops, the resources recommended in the program are still available, and the material in the course hasn’t changed much, Jones said.
“I think that there are ways where those skills can be adapted to a more virtual environment, but what I would say with the content is it’s virtually the same,” Jones said. “Even when we think about our counseling and psychological services, you know they are having the virtual counseling sessions knowing that folks can still go to the hospital and get a SANE exam by our SANE nurses.”
However, some adjustments were needed for Stand Up as it moved from in-person workshops to an entirely online format, Harrell said.
“We did do a little bit of a shift to provide it in the context of the online environment, [but] largely the curriculum and the structure of the workshop has remained the same, and we’re just utilizing things like breakout rooms to try and do some of the group activities we would normally do in person,” Harrell said.
The environment surrounding sexual assault is continually changing as people find new ways to communicate, especially with the influx of users online, something Stand Up is conscious of, Crisafi said.
“Our content remains relatively static in terms of teaching about trauma-informed care, but the examples that we use in terms of when we’re teaching and facilitating to groups, the examples that we use will start to evolve based on what we know individuals in our community are experiencing,” Crisafi said.
Crisafi said Zoom has been beneficial for the Stand Up workshop in some ways. It’s easier for those interested in the workshop to register and attend.
“We’ve actually reached more students, as of today, if you think about the fall semester, we’ve reached more students now than we did in person for the entire fall semester in 2019,” Crisafi said.
You can find more information about the Stand Up program here.