Educating Students on Sexual Misconduct
More Than 90 percent of perpetuators are men, according to Jennifer Underwood, outreach coordinator at the Women’s Center at Tech. Their attitudes derive from characteristics, such as high masculinity and belief of women as inferior.
In the past, athletes have been portrayed as having these attitudes because of the entitlement which may come from playing for a university. National news has placed them in the spotlight several times with scandals such as the Duke lacrosse incident.
Underwood states the status of these perpetuators does not always play into their actions.
“I think those (athletes) would be perpetuators regardless of what group they’re in," she said. "We hear more about that, in some cases, because it’s more newsworthy. From what I’ve seen, it has more to do with the characteristics of the person.”
Regardless, the athletic department at Tech holds mandatory courses on sexual violence to inform its athletes since most people, in general, are uneducated in the matter.
“Since 1996, we’ve been trying to provide a sexual assault education program for student athletes,” said Reyna Gilbert-Lowry, assistant athletic director for Student Life.
The program takes place once a year in a one-day session with the help of several facilitators, such as the Women’s Center, Student Conduct, the Athletic Department and Residential Life.
In the training, they are given the definition of rape and consent, but also introduced to ways to prevent sexual assault. Athletes are introduced to the bystander effect, which is something the Women’s Center also strongly encourages.
“For the past three years, we’ve done a program called Mentors in Violence Prevention. It’s a bystander intervention concept, so we really are focusing on helping student athletes notice red flags in a situation,” Gilbert-Lowry said.
The Bystander Effect
Underwood agrees the bystander effect is important to teach to students because it can prevent sexual assault incidents.
“You can’t always do a lot to prevent your own sexual assault, but people can do a lot to prevent someone else’s sexual assault,” Underwood said. “Even as a bystander, if it looks sketchy, trust your instinct on the sketchiness and do something.”
The athletic department and the Women’s Center stress the bystander effect has the potential of preventing many sexual violence crimes.
Despite these measures, sexual violence may still occur. Many times these crimes go unreported by people because they are embarrassed or do not believe it is common. This mentality usually derives from a lack of education.
“I think the biggest problem in regards to education of sexual violence on campus is that a lot of people believe it doesn’t exist or it happens in other places, but, statistically, it happens a lot more than students expect,” said senior Gabriella Greer, chair of the student group SAVE, Sexual Assault and Violence Education by students.
Greer also supports the bystander effect as the most effective way to prevent and educate students.