Published: July 2, 2019

Sexual assault prevention program works to change campus culture

Contact(s): Chris Chapman University Communications office: (517) 355-2281

What difference can a year make? With just more than a year of operation, the Prevention, Outreach and Education Department is focusing cultural change at Michigan State University around relationship violence and sexual misconduct (RVSM) prevention.

The department was created in 2018 upon the recommendation of the university’s Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Expert Advisory Workgroup to educate the campus community on preventing RVSM and other violence; empowering staff, faculty and students to become advocates for a non-violent community; and positively affect a cultural change.

POE has made significant strides in accomplishing these goals by providing customized in-person training and online learning to more than 72,000 campus community members, according to its first annual report.

“This team is extremely passionate about the work that they do, and it shows in their consistent efforts,” said Robert Kent, the associate vice president leading MSU’s Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance, which houses POE and also sponsors MSU’s Know More sexual assault awareness campaign. “I am proud of the massive impact they have made at this university in such a short amount of time.”

Growing from one designated prevention staffer in the Department of Student Life, POE now includes seven full-time prevention specialists, a director and associate director and more than 100 peer educators who partner with campus units to provide educational programing for employees and students. Some of the programs include:

  • Required in-person RVSM prevention programming for first-year students.
  • Bystander Network in-person prevention programming for second-year students.
  • Online prevention education for third- and fourth-year students, graduate students and employees.
  • Greeks Take the Lead prevention programing for fraternity and sorority members.
  • Spartans Against Violence prevention programming for student-athletes and athletic staff.
  • Faculty/staff and graduate/professional student outreach and education.
  • Campus climate and response programs.

POE this year hosted the first Creating Change through Collaboration Summit for MSU faculty, staff and graduate students to discuss the impact of sexual assault and violence and how to address RVSM issues within their respective programs.

“We provided a supportive environment to have the difficult discussions around sexual assault and relationship violence on campus,” said Kelly Schweda, director of POE. “It is critical that everyone on campus feel they have the tools to support survivors and be effective change agents.”

The department also partnered with multiple student organizations, including the Associated Students of Michigan State University and the University Activities Board, to facilitate “It’s On Us” weeks of action in the fall and spring. This series of events creates awareness around RVSM issues and is held during Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Awareness months in April and October.

POE will continue to expand its efforts and share best practices with other institutions.

“In July, we are hosting the Big Ten gender-based violence gathering,” Schweda said. “This event brings prevention and survivor service providers from multiple Big Ten institutions together to share best practices, challenges and ideas for programming. We are excited to share our last year’s success with our counterparts from other institutions.”

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New data shows MSU's Prevention, Outreach and Education Department has trained over 72,000 students, staff and faculty on preventing relationship violence and sexual misconduct.