WesWell Continues WE Speak WE Stand

By Rajaa Elidrissi, Staff Writer
Thursday, February 14, 2013

On Sunday, Feb. 17, the Office of Health Education (WesWell) will be holding an event called the WE Speak WE Stand Bystander Intervention Program. WE Speak WE Stand is a program intended to create an environment at the University that aids and educates students on prevention of sexual assault, relationship violence, and alcohol abuse.

Director of Health Education Tanya Purdy and Sexual Assault Resource Coordinator for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Alysha Warren established WE Speak WE Stand last year. The program is divided into two sessions: one addressing sexual assault and the other focusing on alcohol abuse.

“We collaborated on developing the general bystander intervention training and each worked on separate components,” Warren wrote in an email to The Argus. “I created the sexual assault prevention and (new) relationship violence bystander intervention sessions. We intentionally keep the sexual assault and alcohol sessions separate because we do not want to reinforce myths about the role of alcohol in sexual assault.”

WE Speak WE Stand is a program created by the leaders of WesWell and CAPS. WesWell provides programs to students regarding health education, and WesWell workers also dedicate their time to promoting positive attitudes among students and educating the University community.

According to Purdy, research about alcohol abuse, sexual assault, and relationship violence at other campuses and communities helped WesWell and CAPS to specialize the structure of the program for Wesleyan students. Feedback was collected after the first WE Speak WE Stand program.

“We modified and made it specific for the Wesleyan community,” Purdy said. “[All of the best practices and methods] to improve behavior, attitudes, and knowledge about bystander intervention have been incorporated into the training.”

The program’s main goal is to educate bystanders on how to handle and intervene in situations when their peers are in potential danger. In addition to the two sessions that have already been held, there will be a third session later in the semester that will focus on relationship violence.

“Our goal is to provide bystanders with the tools, skills, and strategies to intervene in situations where alcohol use may lead to harm to others and intervene in situations that enable a rape supportive culture, where a sexual assault may occur or someone is being abused in a relationship,” Warren wrote. “I definitely want to see the program continue to expand.”

The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) intern Rachel Verner ’15, who is active in WesWell and WE Speak WE Stand, supports the idea of training peers on how to intervene with issues regarding sexual assault, relationship violence, and alcohol abuse. Her responsibilities as an intern include promoting and facilitating programs.

“I think one of the most effective ways to reach out to students is through students,” Verner said. “It’s sometimes hard to listen to professionals talk about how you should behave, but when it’s your peers talking and giving advice from experience, it can hit a lot closer to home.”

Warren and Purdy both have detailed expectations as the program continues to expand.

“People should walk away with not just a scope of the problem, but some concrete ways that they change the environment and address the issue; otherwise, people leave feeling helpless and paralyzed,” Warren wrote. “Our bystander intervention training provides ways for people to ‘do something.’”

Purdy has similar goals for the program.

“We want to see students change their attitude toward intervening and increase knowledge about intervening safely and effectively,” Purdy said. “[Ultimately], we want to see students actually intervene.”

Verner stressed the importance and efficacy of training sessions such as the WE Speak WE Stand program.

“I know lots of students, especially those employed by the University, are constantly being drilled with information about bystander intervention, but all in all, it really does help to make Wesleyan a safer community,” Verner said.