The Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management and the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County are now working together to promote the “Bringing in the Bystander” sexual assault–prevention program to Ithaca College this semester. Considering that sexual assault is an issue that affects a substantial number of college students of all genders, ethnicities and sexual identities, this is an important and applaudable step in the right direction for the college when it comes to combatting sexual assault on campus.
First of all, it is encouraging to see the Advocacy Center and Public Safety working together again. Not only does this help connect the college to the community around a national issue, but it also gives the college the opportunity to learn from people who are vastly experienced in responding to sexual assault and domestic violence situations.
In addition, the program gets students directly involved, and since students are likely to be the only ones around when sexual assault or harassment is on the verge of occurring at a party or other social setting, it is crucial that they know how to intervene. All too often, sexual assault takes place when it could be stopped if a friend or bystander knew how to stop it.
It’s also beneficial that students can learn from other students, as the bystander education program trains peer educators. Typically these issues are more easily discussed and understood between peers than between people coming from different contexts. Moreover, the program uses examples from the college, which brings the issue close to home and makes it both more comprehensible and more urgent.
In comparison to the problematic Rape Aggression Defense course from this summer, which taught women how to physically defend themselves against perpetrators, the bystander education program is a huge step up in the college’s battle against sexual assault. This issue is a community one, and it is important that everyone work together and help one another put an end to it.