After launching a new Bystander Intervention Training model, WesWell and the Office of Survivor Advocacy and Community Education (SACE) hosted the first all-campus training of the program’s 101 session on Saturday, Feb. 23. Director of WesWell Seirra Fowler and SACE Director Johanna DeBari worked together to design the new curriculum, which is split up into two two-hour sessions rather than two three-hour sessions.
Over the course of the two-hour training, SACE Intern Rachele Merliss ’19 and Bystander Intervention Intern Jewelia Ferguson ’20 covered topics including consent, healthy and unhealthy relationships, gender roles, alcohol use, the basics of intervention, and resources available to survivors. Forty students attended the training, which served not just as an informative lecture but also as a dialogue, allowing for nuance in conversations about such themes.
“With 101, we talk about rape culture, we talk about alcohol use, we talk about interpersonal violence, and when you want to intervene, first you need to know what these signs are, you need to know why it’s problematic, you need to know why you are intervening,” Ferguson said. “So I think 101 is a good conversation starter: Why are these things problematic? Why should I feel like I need to step in and support this person?”
The changes to the curriculum, according to Fowler, came in response to input from Bystander Intervention Facilitators, who are students trained to teach other students.
“It made sense to update it,” Fowler said when asked about the impetus behind the curriculum change. “We have student facilitators, so we always meet with them and they give us feedback about, ‘Maybe this example is a little outdated now,’ or ‘These are things that are going on in our community so maybe we need more attention on this….’ We think that maybe the length of time was a barrier, but we felt like if we made it shorter and maybe rebranded it as a new curriculum, people would be interested.”
The 101 session informs the subsequent 201 session, which can be scheduled with groups of at least 15 people through Ferguson. Bystander Intervention 201 looks at more specific methods of intervening, and to take the course, students must have already completed 101.
As Fowler and DeBari explained, Bystander Intervention Training has always operated on a 101 and 201 model with two different training sessions to explain how to intervene and why it’s necessary, but the order the content is presented in has now been reversed.
“When we were talking about making this shift and updating the curriculum, it’s great that we’re teaching people how to intervene, but it seemed like it would make more sense to focus on ‘Why do we need to intervene?’ first,” Fowler explained. “That’s why 101 is really talking about the culture, sexual violence, rape culture, drunk scripts—things that we’ve learned throughout our lives which may or may not be healthy or supportive of survivors…. [Now it’s] this is why we need to intervene, then this is how you do it, which is the focus in 201.”
Those signing up to participate in Bystander Intervention Training are typically involved in a student group. The new 101 curriculum was first taught last semester to Greek organizations on campus and is consistent no matter the group in attendance.
“Whether someone went through the Greek life one or the all-campus one, if they want to have a conversation about it, they’ll be able to speak the same language,” Fowler said. “When we’ve done ResLife staff training, some of the examples we will use will be specific to a dynamic between a resident and a [Residential Advisor], or a [House Manager] and a student…. We never want to change it too much [from session to session], but still want to feel like people can come and still identify with some of the examples that we’re talking about.”
The perspective of the training session is primarily rooted in how to avoid potential perpetrators and how to help others in unhealthy or dangerous situations. Nevertheless, DeBari hopes that the conversations about consent will also prompt students to reevaluate their own sexual activities in addition to making sure others are being responsible and treated healthily.
DeBari encourages student groups to reach out if they hope to have further dialogues about group-specific topics that they hope to address in a more structured environment.
“What we’re hoping is Bystander is a starting point, and if there are other opportunities where people want to have conversations, we can figure that out as it comes,” DeBari said. “There’s research that shows that the tools of prevention that are most effective are ones that happen at multiple points of contact, so having more than one conversation has better results in terms of shifting culture.”
Hannah Reale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @HannahEReale.