Safety, Security and Resources Available for Students Facing Sexual Assault | VTx
In the face of the immeasurable suffering inflicted on victims of sexual violence, the Virginia Tech community is committed to running a fair Title IX process, treating individuals with compassion and dignity, and enabling individuals to make choices about how they proceed and heal.
In recent weeks, as the fall semester began, the Virginia Tech Police Department followed the college’s federal Clery Law requirements by emailing alerts notifying the campus community of sexual assault. and where they took place. These incidents, according to Katie Polidoro, Director of Title IX Compliance and Title IX Coordinator at Virginia Tech, are a sad reminder that the campus community must continue to be vigilant, while dealing with victims of sexual assault and abuse. sexual violence.
“Our message is this: we care about this and we are going to do everything we can to prevent these things before they happen,” Polidoro said. “If that happens, we are there for you and we care. “
“One is too many,” Virginia Tech Police Chief Mac Babb said of the incidents. “Anything beyond zero is unacceptable. “
Babb said the alerts, which meet Virginia Tech’s requirements to disclose information about crimes on or near campus, exemplify the university’s commitment to being transparent while providing ways to stay safe and secure. provide resources to victims.
“I would be worried if this happened and you didn’t get the alert,” Babb said. “We want to raise the community’s first line of defense to stay safe – and that’s the community itself. If they don’t know that things are going on, they won’t know what to look for. We’re trying to tell the community it’s a concern and here are some things you can do about it to try and get yourself safe.
So what is Virginia Tech doing to promote a culture of safety on campus? The simple answer: as much as possible. The university is committed to prioritizing the safety and well-being of students.
“The trauma inflicted by sexual assault and the tragic consequences for the victims go against all of Virginia Tech’s values, as affirmed in our Community Principles and our commitment to serve and care for one another. Said Tim Sands, president of Virginia Tech. “The university is united, with our community partners, in our determination to prevent this intolerable behavior and to support the survivors who suffer from it. “
The proactive commitment to safety, preventative measures and resources is evident. Anticipating a slight increase in misconduct entering the fall semester due to the return of social gatherings on campus after an 18-month absence, those working in the Police Department, the Division of Student Affairs, the Dean of students, the Office of Equity and Accessibility, the Women’s Center and other ancillary sectors developed a multi-pronged approach before the start of the fall semester. This approach includes safety, education, prevention programs, heightened messaging and, for victims, additional supports.
Two of Virginia Tech’s prevention programs are coordinated by the Women’s Center and involve student participation. The Bringing in the Bystander workshop is a program designed to educate and empower students to prevent, interrupt and respond to bullying and violence. The Women’s Center trains facilitators who then offer 90-minute workshops that teach students how to identify potential situations and the skills to intervene.
Virginia Tech officials believe in the Bringing in the Bystander initiative so strongly that they plan to hire another prevention specialist to reach more students with this program. The search for candidates is ongoing and the position will be hosted in the Hokie Wellness department within the Student Affairs Division.
Additionally, to involve more students in prevention, the Women’s Center is sponsoring SAVES, which stands for Sexual Assault and Violence Education by Students. The Women’s Center educates students about sexual assault and consent, then trains them to become peer educators, with the goal of getting them out and teaching their peers the same topics.
“Historically, we have asked victims to stand up for themselves and protect themselves,” said Christine Smith, co-director of services at the Women’s Center. “It doesn’t work, and it’s not fair to put it on the victim. As a community, if we have spectators involved in the process and who know what the options are, then it will be much more effective.
Polidoro and Babb both echoed similar sentiments. The buy-in of the campus community, especially the more than 34,000 students, is essential to prevention efforts.
This message begins as soon as students arrive on campus. Those working in Title IX – a federal law that lays the groundwork for steps universities need to take to respond to and stop cases of gender-based harassment, including sexual violence – teamed up with the Women’s Center during the week of home to teach a session focusing on healthy relationships, consent, witness intervention and prevention of sexual violence. The Welcome Week Orientation Officers led the sessions, having received training from those who work in the Title IX area and the Women’s Center.
Additionally, Virginia Tech requires that every incoming student – undergraduates, transfers, graduate students – take an online course on Sexual Assault Prevention.
“We want students to talk about it,” Polidoro said. “If we say, ‘If you see something, do something,’ then we also have to say, ‘Here is something you can do. Sometimes it is about meeting the students where they are at and telling them “Here is some practical advice” instead of having an abstract discussion of boundaries.
“We have to be sure that we are really in contact with the students,” Polidoro added, noting that she sets up a Title IX student advisory council every year to solicit feedback from across campus. “We need to be sure that we are speaking to them in a way that they care about and that they will listen.”