Sexual assault training and the person sitting next to you

Corina Beimers – Staff writer

What did you learn from the sexual assault training? Probably not a whole lot, because you didn’t do it. 

At the beginning of October, Robert Taylor emailed all Dordt University students about a federally-required sexual assault bystander training. 

Since then, I have been a witness to more than one conversation on the subject. I have listened to boys make light of the subject matter. I have stood in the locker room and heard girls talk about how they have gotten away with not completing the module. I have overheard that nobody will track you down to make sure you do it. 

These opinions regarding the training brought a lot of questions to my mind, but the one remains: Who is listening? Who is listening to your joke about sexual assault being okay if you are drunk? Who is listening to you talk about how the training isn’t important?

You have three options when it comes to the bystander training. You can watch all the videos, answering the questions honestly and thoroughly, you can skip through the videos and write next to nothing for the answers to the questions, or you can ignore the training altogether. After listening and asking around campus, I have discovered that the latter two are probably the case for a lot of students. 

We hear that one in five women are sexually assaulted during their college years, but we think, “Well, that does not happen here at Dordt.” 

It is hard to know what the exact statistics would be here at this university. While maybe the statistic is not 20 percent, for studnets to think that sexual assualt is not something we need to be aware of, or something we do not need proper information and training on, then we would be quite naive. 

There are instances of sexual assault on campus. So, odds are when you made that joke in the classroom, a victim of sexual assault heard you. It’s likely that when you downgraded the importance of the bystander training, a victim of sexual assault was present. If you think that you are so educated when it comes to the issue of sexual assault that you do not need the training, making these comments proves that you actually do.

There are two things that I’ve learned over the years regarding sexual assault. First, it happens a lot more than you think it does. Second, it happens to the people you least expect. Sexual violence, and rape in particular, is the most under-reported crime. Sixty-three percent of cases are not reported to the police, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Maybe you think you will never be put in a situation where you could apply this training, or you think you would know what to do if you were. What I do know is you will meet people in your life who have experienced this. We need to know what messages our actions and our words are sending. 

The email we all received about the mandatory bystander training started off by stating that the training was, “a means of complying with federal regulations.” The requirement for sexual assault training should not only come from a federal mandate. It should come from the recognition of a problem and the desire for a solution on Dordt’s campus. There should be an urgency. While we can bring attention to the fact that students probably are not taking the bystander training seriously, we can also think about how to better set students up for success. Sexual assault is an increasing issue across college campuses and Dordt students need to understand the importance of the issue by utilizing better training methods. 

How honest are we about the issue and risk of sexual assault on our campus? What message do we send with a consequence-free module on the topic? 

There are both men and women who hold significant trauma from being a victim of sexual assault. They are people on this campus. They might even be your friends. Would your perspective on this training change if your sister, brother, son, daughter, or friend was a victim of sexual assault? You do not have to know someone who has been assaulted to understand how awful it is and for there to be caution around the subject. 

It does not matter if you have done the training before. It does not matter if you think you are prepared for any situation. The words you say around others and the actions you take have a big impact. So, ask yourself again: Who is listening? 

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