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Empower Yourself to Help Others 

Student-athlete Cassie Edwards handed out flyers for the training with her teammates. (Photo by Mark Schmidt) 

ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 31, 2016) – Shaine Holloway is used to speaking to other students about issues like sex and rape.

Holloway, a junior criminal justice major from Brooklyn, N.Y., stopped at a table in front of the Campus Center one sunny day in October to sign up for the #JustAsk Empowered Bystander training. He is part of Project SHAPE, which educates other students about sexual health.

In Holloway’s view, it’s important to get educated about sexual violence, which includes sexual assault, intimate partner violence and stalking, and what a person can do as a bystander to prevent sexual violence in all forms.

The Sexual Violence Prevention Project (SVPP), a committee on campus devoted to developing and implementing University-wide sexual violence prevention and education efforts, agrees with Holloway. Earlier this year, the SVPP developed a plan for empowering 25 percent of UAlbany students with the tools necessary to safely, effectively intervene in incidents involving sexual violence.

The empowered bystander program is a 90-minute training session facilitated by a team of two trained facilitators. Approximately 800 students have already participated in the empowered bystander training this semester and the feedback has been very positive. Certain students, including all athletes and all student leaders, will be required to take the training. Training sessions are also being offered to anyone who wants to participate, on Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 7 at 8 p.m.; and Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m.

“We’re doing this because we want to change the culture in which sexual violence occurs far too often,” said Title IX Officer Chantelle Cleary. “Our goal is to empower our students to safely and effectively intervene in sexual violence and in the behaviors that contribute to the culture in which violence so frequently occurs.”

The training also discusses the importance of being a positive bystander in the aftermath of sexual violence.

“I’ve learned what it means to speak up,” Holloway said. “I always try to teach students that there is someone to talk to who will support you, if you’ve experienced sexual violence.” For example, you can go to the Advocacy Center for Sexual Violence. The Advocacy Center, as it is often called, is a confidential space devoted entirely to serving and advocating for students who have experienced sexual violence or for students who are seeking advice on how to help a friend who has experienced sexual violence. The Center is staffed by professional advocates Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located in the basement of Indian Quad, under Seneca Hall.

UAlbany women’s basketball player Cassie Edwards, a small forward from Toronto, Canada, was standing with her teammates handing out flyers about the training at the Oct. 4 event outside the Campus Center.

“As a female student, I really want to get across the importance of this issue,” said Edwards. “When you are a bystander, people don’t know how to de-escalate a situation. In this training, they are teaching you how to be active” in making an effective intervention.

If you see someone in a potentially dangerous situation, there are many options for intervention. This training explores those options and challenges students to identify how they might feel most comfortable intervening. For example, some people are comfortable confronting a situation directly. Others may be more comfortable delegating the intervention to another person or figure of authority.

Barbara Lombardo was the first faculty member to invite the Title IX officer to her classroom for bystander training.

“When I saw an email saying bystander training was available, I immediately responded with an invitation to my weekly Introduction to Reporting and News Writing class, for two reasons,” Lombardo said. “One, I think it is important for students to be exposed to the very real issue of sexual violence and what they can, should and must do to prevent it. The training is a practical response to a problem on campuses everywhere. Two, I used the training as a lesson in how to participate and cover a program. For homework, the students were assigned to write a story about the training.”

To sign up for training, register at the Sexual Violence Prevention Project’s My Involvement page.

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