Members of the SA and several campus organizations met Wednesday night to hammer out the details of a proposed co-educational sexual discussion program that would supplement current sexual assault prevention programs such as One in Four and Every Two Minutes, which are both aimed at single-sex audiences.
SA vice president Valerie Hopkins ’09 gathered the focus group in the middle of Sexual Assault Awareness Week and hopes that by next spring the program will be off and running.
“Every Two Minutes and One in Four do a great job discussing how to help out sexual assault survivors,” Hopkins said. “This aims to pre-empt a lot of that and focuses on how to have healthy discussions about sexual relations.”
At last month’s SA presidential debate, challenger Adam Rosen ’09 stated that Hopkins’ co-ed discussion program would be “dangerous,” citing research by Dr. John Foubert. Foubert is the founder of the all-male sexual assault prevention group One in Four and an assistant professor of higher education at the College.
According to Foubert’s research, single-sex environments are more effective for educating college students about sexual assault than co-ed environments.
“My understanding is that the Sexual Assault Office is working closely with One in Four and Every Two Minutes to come up with a program that is co-ed. I think that is worth trying,” Foubert said. “At the end of day, though, our efforts are best spent using programmatic methods that are shown to work with research, which is not something I’ve heard Hopkins and [SA president Zach] Pilchen advocate. The two of them have showed a naïveté surrounding sexual assault.”
Hopkins said there is plenty of evidence to support Foubert’s sexual assault research. However, according to Trisha Hunsaker, a Sexual Assault Educator at the College helping the SA create the new program, there is a lack of research when it comes to co-ed discussion.
“There are no studies evaluating programs similar to this one,” she said. “It is cutting edge in what it is trying to do.”
Katie Dixon ’09, a member of Every Two Minutes and one of three SA undersecretaries of health and safety for sexual assault prevention, explained that the co-ed program is not intended to be a sexual assault prevention program. Instead, it would help alleviate miscommunication between students engaging in sexual activity and deal with issues related to healthy relationships such as what qualifies as consent.
At Wednesday’s focus group meeting, campus leaders discussed logistical concerns they had with the program, which could be unveiled as early as next fall and is targeted towards second-semester freshmen. Hopkins said the focus group has consulted with Morgan Berman ’08, SA undersecretary of diversity initiatives for gender affairs, who is working to make sure the co-ed program is inclusive for gay and lesbian students.
“We want to make sure it’s comfortable for everyone,” Hopkins said. “Anything that encourages dialogue is positive.”
Dixon also said it was critical for the focus group to consider the size of the co-ed discussions. For example, if two 34-person male and female halls were paired together it might be hard to facilitate a dialogue. Additionally, there might be a tendency for both sexes to self-segregate on opposite sides of the room.
She said that in both cases a smaller group dynamic would be necessary.