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Vassar Initiatives for Education and Prevention of Sexual Violence

Sexual assault remains a serious problem on the Vassar campus, as it is at schools across the country. Staff in a number of offices, as well as faculty and students, are continuing to build on Vassar’s commitment to education and prevention.

Many people at the college have been dedicated to education and prevention, with the goal of eradicating sexual violence from our campus. The following are a number of initiatives undertaken over the past several months.

Importantly our new Director of Equal Opportunity & Affirmative Action and Title IX Coordinator Rachel Pereira, who replaces Julian Williams in the role, arrived in mid-January. Rachel served most recently as the Title IX Coordinator and Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity Officer at Drew University. Prior to that she was an assistant district attorney in the city of Philadelphia. Before law school, she held positions as a classroom teacher and a school principal. With Rachel’s appointment, Kelly Grab, who had been filling in as Acting Title IX Coordinator, returned full-time to her duties as Title IX investigator.

With leadership from the Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention (SAVP) program, New Student Orientation provided enhanced sexual assault prevention education and bystander intervention training at orientation for first-year students in August. New Student Orientation included several programs to promote inclusive and respectful learning and living environments. Among them are “I am Vassar,” which addresses questions of identity and community through storytelling and facilitated discussions with new students, and “Speak About It,” a performance-based program on consent, sexual assault, and confronting gender-based violence. This week “Unpacking Vassar” will reconvene first year students for art-based performances and workshops to follow up on issues presented during orientation.

In line with new state legislation, the SAVP program staff and student interns have provided education on affirmative consent to the leaders of all student organizations and to all varsity athletes. Vassar's policy on consent had already been in line with the new law; the legislation called for additional training for students, which the college completed for this year in the fall.

During this academic year the Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention (SAVP) program facilitated approximately 70 hours of bystander intervention training for students. In May 2015 a number of faculty, staff, and administrators were trained as facilitators for the Mentor In Violence Prevention (MVP) program, with the intention that we can now offer more frequent bystander intervention workshops. In fall 2015 SAVP staff, student interns, and administrative volunteers have conducted 33 bystander intervention workshops. Two work-study positions also were approved to support peer bystander training this academic year.

SAVP and the Office of Health Education also facilitated workshops on alcohol and violence prevention for student fellows and house teams. Additionally, 269 members of the faculty have attended workshops on the College’s Title IX commitments; these were completed just prior to the winter break.

This upcoming semester SAVP looks forward to continued bystander intervention workshops, awareness raising events, and collaborative initiatives to address sexual violence in different campus communities. Please contact savp@vassar.edu for more information about upcoming events and for programming recommendations and suggestions.