Starting this fall, Tufts Center for Awareness, Resources, and Education (CARE) introduced a new program: Sex Health Reps. Alexandra Donovan, CARE’s sexual misconduct prevention specialist, said the impetus for the program was to find a better way to spread information about sex health and education.
“We’ve been trying to find the best way to get sex education and sex health information out to students, and we know students respond best when it’s peer to peer,” Donovan said. “We had a group that came from TCU [Senate last year], who also wanted to look into better ways we can get this information out there, and they’d heard of a program at the University of Utah. So coming together, we created the Sex Health Reps. Designing it was very similar to Eco-Reps.”
After an application and interview process, CARE hired 15 Sex Health Reps at the beginning of the school year, each of whom will receive a $100 honorarium at the end of each semester. Donovan explained that CARE is hoping reps will connect with students in the residence halls, as well as other populations on campus, like the Group of Six.
Donovan said Reps were chosen to represent a wide variety of communities on campus, as she hopes Reps can use their connections with these communities to extend the program’s reach.
“We were very specifically trying to find students that represented diverse communities on campus, so not just residential halls, but connections with a group we normally wouldn’t hear from,” Donovan said. “[Sex Health Reps’] responsibility is to use those connections to spread information about sex health and sex education and be part of campus-wide programming.”
Max Farber, the student sexual health coordinator and lead Sex Health Rep, explained the types of programming he is working on with the Reps to implement.
“In addition to bigger semester events, like Sex Health Week in the spring, we’re trying to get rolling a few more routine … activities to really be a presence on campus,” Farber, a senior, said. “One of those ideas is a discussion group, getting students into a safe space where the conversations about sex can be candid, blatant and open, and people can engage in the active process of creating sex positivity.”
Junior Christine Barthelemy, another Sex Health Rep, is planning a program geared towards the Africana Center, and has worked with Africana Center Director Katrina Moore and Program Manager Domonique Johnson.
“I’m working with [Africana Center staff] to start a video series that takes questions from people in the community about anything sex-related,” Barthelemy said. “We would then consult people from Health Services and other Sex Health Reps to answer their questions.”
Barthelemy wanted to get involved with the program to make sex a more open conversation on campus.
“What I really want to do is not only be a voice for people who are underrepresented on Tufts’ campus, but help others learn more, because a lot of people have misconceptions about sex,” Barthelemy said. “This is a learning experience for me as well and I want to be able to share that with the people on campus who I can reach out to.”
Pending approval from Facilities Services, Donovan is currently working to introduce wall-mounted condom dispensers within residence halls, which Reps would be responsible for maintaining and refilling.
“One of the things over the years we’ve heard is that students don’t feel comfortable walking into Health Services where they can be seen taking a condom, so we have been trying to find different ways to get this out there,” Donovan said.
The Reps will not only work to educate various communities, but Donovan and Farber said they will also provide educational programming for the Reps themselves. Donovan noted that the program’s ultimate goal is to destigmatize questions and conversations about sexual activity.
“The idea is that our education programs run the gamut. We want a very sex-positive campus, we want this campus to be open to everyone, and right now we’re not there,” Donovan said. “We have a lot of stigma about certain types of sexual activity, sex in general, who can have sex and who can’t. All of these stigmas are things our Reps would be working against in terms of teaching opportunities and education.”
Donovan said the program is currently trying to establish itself, and thus it is too early to assess the program’s impact.
“Right now, it’s just making sure our Reps feel they have the information they need before they go out and talk to students, as well as increasing their visibility and programming on a larger scale as we move forward,” Donovan said. “We’re still trying to get the word out that they exist and are a valuable resource.”