MSUToday
Published: Dec. 7, 2016

MSU to focus on area high schools to combat sexual assault

With funding from First Lady Sue Snyder’s campaign to end campus sexual assault, Michigan State University aims to raise awareness of this important topic at an earlier age by partnering with high schools and focusing on bystander intervention.

Additionally, MSU will use part of its $37,969 grant to reinforce those same key messages among its upper-class college students.

Snyder’s office on Dec. 5 awarded $506,191 to 18 Michigan community colleges and universities as part of a second round of funding to end campus sexual assault. For more information on Snyder’s initiative, go to http://www.endcampussexualassault.com/.

Kelly Schweda, coordinator of MSU’s Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Prevention Program, worked on the grant with Jessica Norris, MSU’s Title IX coordinator, and Allyn Shaw, an assistant vice president in Student Affairs and Services. She said federal data show that, unfortunately, about 12 percent of girls and 5 percent of boys in grades 9-12 are the victims of sexual assault.

Engaging children at that age is crucial, she said. Research shows that empowering students to become active bystanders can build a community of respect and caring.

“The tremendous negative impact these crimes have not only on survivors’ emotional and physical well-being, but also on their ability to achieve academic success, makes the need for effective prevention a national priority,” Schweda said. “With this grant, we want to strengthen community relationships and engage with potential students before they apply to MSU.”

Participating high schools will be provided with a kit containing promotional and informational materials to implement a bystander intervention awareness campaign. This will include posters, handouts and other promotional materials along with video clips and social media.

Currently, new and transfer MSU students take part in the Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence (SARV) program, an educational, peer-led workshop. Students also must take an online educational program. Also, as part of the grant, MSU plans to develop a “second dose” bystander intervention workshop for students to continue to reinforce prevention messaging.

“It is key that our approach reinforces these key messages in later semesters,” Schweda said.

MSU looks to begin work on the program this month, hiring staff and then writing and designing program materials in early 2017.