GVSU receives grant to bolster sexual assault programming

By Karina Lloyd | 1/10/18 9:33pm

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GVL / Kevin Sielaff - The "It's On Us" table stand is open to the public on Nov. 10 inside the Kirhof Center.

For the second consecutive year, Grand Valley State University has received a grant offered through the governor's office and awarded by the Michigan State Police to help fund campus sexual assault programming.

The $39,472 grant will help to continue the university's use of the national "Bringing in the Bystander" model on campus. This will be accomplished through the bystander intervention program Peer Education and Prevention (P.E.P.) Talks, in which trained GVSU students educate their peers about sexual assault prevention. The main focus of the organization is teaching students what it means to be a good bystander.

According to Jessica Jennrich, director of the Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity, students learn how to support those who are survivors and also how to prevent sexual violence by interrupting a potentially harmful situation.

This program has been on GVSU’s campus for a year now and has been able to reach all different sectors of student life. The program’s widespread reach is thanks to the nine students who were trained as peer educators. In the past year, the group has provided training for 244 students in classes, fraternities/sororities, living centers and student organizations. 

“Based on a request you put in, the crew would ... come out and do a bystander intervention presentation,” Jennrich said.

Jennrich explained that a likely reason the university was selected for the grant was GVSU’s continued efforts to improve the university's sexual assault programming.

In this year’s grant proposal, the university expressed that despite better awareness of bystander education in the past year, there were still areas that needed improvement. Based on surveys of P.E.P. Talk viewers, the university found that were was an overall disconnect with students when it came to understanding consent education.

“I think we were chosen for this grant because we showed we were really open to continuing P.E.P. Talks,” Jennrich added. “(By) adding in the other (needed) piece around consent education, ... we discovered we needed to do (this) in order to really be a campus that was committed to actually addressing problems … (and having) effective prevention education program.”

The missing piece, consent education, has now been added into ReACT! performances. ReACT! is a GVSU student theater troupe that performs shows to equip students to serve as active bystanders in situations where violence could occur, including sexual assault, dating violence, stalking and harassment, in an effort to help promote safety on campus.

P.E.P. Talks and ReACT! are able to educate large audiences about sexual violence prevention due to their request-based formats. Both programs take requests to visit different student organizations and also do small-group or one-on-one education.

With the grant in place, the ReACT! team will be able to expand its programming and hold more performances throughout campus. The money from this year’s grant will also go toward paying the student actors, student educators and a graduate assistant who all play a big role in building awareness and prevention on campus. 

“In addition to making sure the P.E.P. Talks program continues, … (the grant will) also add the complementary piece of consent education so we can continue to build a cohesive prevention education program at Grand Valley State University,” Jennrich said. “(This allows the) program to meet students where they are and also build on students’ skills as they progress through their time here.” 

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