USU introduces new training program aimed at preventing sexual misconduct

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Utah State University introduced another effort to prevent sexual misconduct and provide resources for victims: upstander training.

According to the program’s website, an “upstander” is “a person who sees wrong and acts to prevent harm to another.”

The training “is about turning bystanders into upstanders,” said Amanda DeRito, USU’s sexual misconduct information and outreach coordinator, “it describes people stepping up.”

Participants in the training watch a series of videos on the bystander effect, discuss various biases, gender roles and “the ways we think about harassment,” DeRito added.

Michael Scott Peters, the Utah State University Student Association president, participated in the July 14 training and said the group focused primarily on the bystander effect, a psychological study which says people are less likely to intervene in a situation they know is wrong if they are surrounded by a group of people.

“If you’re alone, you feel more of an obligation but if you’re in a group of friends you just assume someone else will help,” Peters said. “The training really talked about why we step in.”

DeRito added that the training program is geared toward various personality types and situations.

“You try to simplify it and make it accessible and also something that, even if you’re shy or you’re in a situation where you’re unsure if you’re safe, there’s always something you can do,” she said. “How can you maybe report it after or doing something afterword?”

The program was developed by the Utah Department of Health’s Violence and Injury Prevention program and is being implemented throughout the state, although DeRito said she thinks USU is the first university to provide the training.

“What’s cool about it is it’s a community sort of intervention program,” DeRito said, adding that the program will be offered throughout various junior high and high schools in the state. Community resources such as The Family Place, Citizens Against Physical and Sexual Abuse (CAPSA) and the Cache County Sheriff’s Office will be participating, DeRito said.

“If you hear these terms in middle school and high school, you kind of just extend what you apply it to as you get older,” she added.

DeRito also said bystander intervention training of this sort has proven to be one of the most effective means of preventing sexual misconduct and helping victims.

“They’ve found that these kind of bystander programs work a lot better than calling out perpetrators and calling out victims because people don’t identify as either of those,” she said. “Even by talking about consent and sexual violence and the context of the bystander intervention program, students take away a little and learn a little.”

July’s training focused primarily on student leaders and faculty across campus and taught participants how to provide similar training to their respective auxiliaries.

“Our idea is that we train staff and students in every corner of campus,” DeRito said.

University representatives will be sending out periodic emails and other forms of contact to track the progress of those who have participated in the training.

“We get this campus-wide buy-in to the program but then we have all these people who are training their staff, and we’re going to track all of that,”

DeRito said. “We want to know what everyone’s doing. We’re providing resources ongoing.”

Peters agreed, adding, “I think the coolest part about this is that the resources will continue to be provided.”

While July’s training was primarily for student leaders and faculty, free training is available for all students, faculty and staff members.

“I would encourage anyone to participate in this training,” Peters said.

Students, faculty and staff members can register for training at www.usu.edu/sexual-assault/upstanding/.

According to the program’s website, those who wish to participate can choose between a 40-minute or a two-hour training session. The two-hour program “will empower participants to become upstanders and allows time to practice scenarios for safe and effective intervention,” according to the website. This option is recommended for student clubs and organizations, and “those who want or need to practice or become comfortable with the concept of bystander intervention.”

Similarly, the 40-minute session introduces the concept of becoming an upstander. The website says this session is recommended for “classes and those who just want to find out about the upstanding program.”

alison.berg123@aggiemail.usu.edu

@alison__berg

Photo courtesy of Utah State University


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