Editorial: Students need coordinated sexual assault prevention measures

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At this point in the spring semester, Green Dot training for varsity athletes is approaching quickly, and a campus-wide revival of in-person social events makes it even more important now than during semesters spent in partial lockdown. Promoted at Tufts starting in 2016, Green Dot is an on-campus organization providing trainings and workshops that encourage bystander intervention in cases of social misconduct — sexual and otherwise.

The Green Dot training consists of a one to two-hour workshop tailored to group participation, focusing on bystander intervention methods and the social culture of the Tufts community. Another group, Awareness for Sexual Assault Prevention, is a student organization that works to prevent and raise awareness of sexual assault and promote a culture of consent on campus. Currently, student organizations must request these trainings and workshops of their own volition, with the exception of varsity sports teams.

In the past, Tufts has taken action to ensure that students have access to sexual assault prevention training through Green Dot. For student athletes, this access is promoted by the NCAA, which mandates that varsity athletes receive annual sexual misconduct prevention training. According to Malcom Herbert, a current co-coordinator of Green Dot, these trainings vary year to year; past trainings have included a webinar presented by TUPD and workshops with Alexandra Donovan, the director of the Center for Awareness, Resources and Education.

Varsity sports teams’ Green Dot training is orchestrated through the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which helps select Green Dot representatives for each team. While the Green Dot representatives play a crucial role in ensuring their team meets the NCAA requirement, the position does not mandate any required specific training or qualifications.

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Given that sexual harassment and domestic violence at Tufts increased during the pandemic, these sorts of trainings are essential now more than ever amid a return to in-person social events. Due to the pandemic, many underclassmen missed out on normal in-person programming from Green Dot and the Sex Health Representatives — who normally feature during orientation — leading to an educational gap. Additionally, the pandemic has brought changes to the curricula of sexual assault prevention organizations, with Green Dot shifting its focus to address the rise in domestic violence within the Tufts community. This year, ASAP will also relaunch their annual event, It Happens Here — a student-led event focused on narratives by survivors of sexual violence and assault — for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

To address the recent increase in sexual harassment and domestic violence, Tufts should work to raise the number of students who receive annual sexual misconduct prevention training and ensure that Green Dot representatives for sports teams are prepared to provide information about sexual misconduct prevention training.

While all new students are required to receive training on the university’s sexual misconduct policies from the Office of Equal Opportunity during orientation, Tufts currently only mandates sexual assault prevention training for students participating in varsity athletics — not club sports or other student organizations. An obvious solution might be for Tufts to mandate that all student organizations recieve annual sexual assault prevention training.

According to Herbert, a senior, Green Dot alone does not have the capacity to train all clubs.

“It would be awesome to be able to do trainings with every club and every group that would want one,” Herbert said. “It’s just the problem is we only have so many ambassadors and [Donovan] has a lot of other responsibilities on her plate. … What we’re kind of dealing with right now is we have to get all these trainings done by April 1 for the NCAA [requirement], which we’re going to be able to do, but … just finding the people to be able to make all those trainings [happen] is definitely going to be like a unique challenge.”

To reach the most students, Tufts should help sexual assault prevention organizations expand their training programs. Currently, Green Dot is hoping to meet demand by developing asynchronous content, such as informational graphics and videos. While there are notable challenges to an asynchronous or even online interactive training, including consistent attendance and difficulties facilitating candid conversations about sex on an online platform, this content would help quickly increase the number of students who can receive training.

We urge all student organizations, especially those hosting social functions, to recieve sexual assult prevention training from Green Dot or ASAP. To meet this demand, we call upon the university to increase the funding for the CARE office and hire more personnel.

With the training, which takes only a few hours, students would be better equipped to handle conversations surrounding not only sexual assault but also uncomfortable or toxic relationships and strategies to make Tufts a safer space. It is critical that students reconcile the reality of sexual assault on Tufts’ campus and know how to take steps to prevent it.

Given the shifting nature of COVID-19 restrictions and the increases in reported sexual misconduct Tufts has seen recently, sexual assault prevention trainings like those offered by Green Dot are more critical than ever. This should not simply be a matter of athletes fulfilling an NCAA requirement. Instead, in the interest of creating a safe and respectful environment for everyone on campus, we urge as many student organizations as capacity and resources allow to request training to improve student awareness of sexual misconduct and bystander intervention strategies.

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