Campaign equips students to prevent sexual assault

After the campus-wide notification of two sexual assault police investigations within the past few weeks, conversation about this issue has been prompted within the University of Tennessee community. Contributing to this dialogue is the Center for Health Education and Wellness, which launched its sexual assault prevention campaign “Volunteers Speak UP!” at the beginning of the semester.

Volunteers Speak UP! spreads the definition of consent across campus through the use of eye-catching posters with bold messages.
                                                           Photo by Savannah Lucas                                                                        Volunteers Speak UP! spreads the definition of consent across campus through the use of eye-catching posters with bold messages.

This fall, a campus center under the Division of Student Life initiated a campaign to prevent sexual assaults on campus.

After the campus-wide notification of two sexual assault police investigations within the past few weeks, conversation about this issue has been prompted within the university community. Contributing to this dialogue is the Center for Health Education and Wellness, which launched its sexual assault prevention campaign “Volunteers Speak UP!” at the beginning of the semester.

Dr. Ashley Blamey, Director of the Center for Health Education and Wellness, said that the campaign’s primary goal will be achieved by empowering bystanders.

“The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness, increase prevention, engage our campus community in an active bystander role and provide concrete ways that we can make UT a safer community for everyone,” Blamey said.

According to the center’s fall 2014 rollout plan, this campaign has several initiatives to be accomplished within the next four years—the main target being incoming students. By 2018, all students will be “trained in bystander intervention” and “exposed to the institutional expectation of students to speak up.” This training will also be integrated into orientation sessions and the FYS 101 curriculum.

In an attempt to fully engage the university community in Volunteers Speak UP, everyone on campus is encouraged to become a registered “Speakologist,” which the center defines as a “member of the UT community who is committed to be an active bystander and is trained to speak up.” This training is available through informative lunches and scheduled group programs. Those interested can sign up for either of these in advance here.

Blamey said that the center is communicating the mission of Volunteers Speak UP! through many different channels. Bold, colorful posters have been scattered throughout campus, emblazoned with untraditional definitions of consent such as “Being a flirt does not mean yes,” “Indecision does not mean yes” and “Reputation does not mean yes.”

In addition to newspaper ads and posters, the Center for Health Education and Wellness connects with students through social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The center is also spreading awareness of the campaign by sponsoring campus events, dialogues and student training.

The true indicator of the campaign’s success will be revealed in how well the university community accepts it and puts its ideals into practice. Sophomore Taylor Fagan, a graphic design major, said that he is optimistic the campaign will have a positive impact on the amount of student awareness.

“I think that it will make people more aware that it’s going on,” Fagan said. “People will be better about watching out for it.”

Grace Sullenger, a freshman majoring in nursing, said that Volunteers Speak UP! will be especially effective in the wake of the recent sexual assaults on campus.

“Two assaults happened in the last two weeks, so I think it’s definitely a problem,” Sullenger said. “A campaign like this will make people more aware. It won’t stop them from happening, but I think it will make things safer.”

Due to the requirements of the Clery Act, emails sent from UTPD to the student body, faculty and staff of the University of Tennessee reveal that the campus is not free of sexual assault. If the Volunteers Speak UP! campaign accomplishes its four year projection, the university community will be better equipped to handle sexual assault situations.

For information about what to do in the event of a sexual assault, click here

Edited by Maggie Jones