SaVE Act against sexual violence targets college and university campuses

Published: Mar. 11, 2013 at 10:27 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 18, 2013 at 10:27 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The federal Violence Against Women Act has a new provision that targets college campuses.

It's called the "SaVE Act, or the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act.

We went to the University of Arizona to ask about it, and found the UA already has programs in place that could be models for other schools.

Violence on campus is not unique to any one university, but the issue can be addressed pretty forcefully.

The UA says it involves more than helping the victims and dealing with the perpetrators.

It also calls on the power of bystander intervention.

It's an idea students and parents we talked with embraced.

"Any time we can encourage the community as a whole to be more aware of and more responsive to violence, that's a good thing," says UA graduate student Maya Kapoor.

Cole Eskridge says, "It's good to know the warning signs and when you should intervene in inappropriate situations."

That intervention is a component of the University of Arizona's Oasis program which is part of Campus Health Service.

Oasis works to prevent sexual and relationship violence while also providing treatment for survivors of such violence, whether they are the victims or others affected, even indirectly.

The UA says the program is rare among universities in that both treatment and prevention are in one program, working together.

A program like Oasis is called for in the new SaVE Act.

SaVE requires colleges and universities to create programs to reduce the risk of violence, especially sexual violence on campus.

"That legislation raises the bar for universities across the country and their response to and prevention of sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking on campus," says UA Oasis Violence Prevention Specialist Megan McKendry.

A key component of Oasis' prevention program is bystander intervention training.

It's learning to spot a potentially dangerous situation, and doing something to stop it.

An example: A woman at a party has had too much to drink and there are other students at that party who seem to be trying to victimize her.

"Essentially it engages people who are bystanders. So not the victims and not the perpetrators, but people who might see something happening--such as a potential incident of sexual assault--and trains to safely and effectively intervene in those situations," McKendry says.

Bystander intervention targets the potential perpetrator through a direct confrontation or other means.

"There are lots of indirect ways people can intervene, from calling 911 to getting the victim out of the situation, to creating a distraction," says Dr. Kathleen Young, UA Psychologist and Coordinator of Clinical Services for the Oasis program.

Both Young and McKendry say a huge benefit of training more and more people to intervene is that they will slowly change the social norms, the culture on campus.

McKendry says it works because "peer norms are incredibly powerful."

"So, if people know--people who are perpetrating sexual assault know that their peers don't condone violence, we can shift the entire culture and created a culture of safety and a culture where we take care of each other," She says.

"That's a really important focus of our work in the Oasis program is trying to shift the social norms and contribute to social change," says Young.

Stacey Smith, of Fort Worth, Texas, is touring the UA, considering the school for her daughter.

She liked the idea of Oasis and bystander intervention.

"The girls need to be safe. They need to watch out for each other. The university needs to watch out for the girls," Smith says.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Oasis will be visiting fraternities on campus, holding workshops for students there.

Copyright 2013 Tucson News Now All rights reserved.