How to prevent sexual assault

BY HANNAH BROADBENT | News Editor | The Statesman UMD's Got Your Back! program trains students in bystander intervention. SUBMITTED

Almost all students have been educated on what to do after someone has been sexually assaulted. Now it’s time to talk about what to do when it is happening. Or more importantly, before it happens. It’s time to talk about how to prevent sexual assault.

Got Your Back! UMD (GYB) is a training program that does just that. It was created by Dori Decker, a health educator at UMD.

According to Meg Poettgen, a peer health educator, GYB is adapted from Step UP! to fit UMD with the goal of bringing awareness to campus.

“If there is awareness around campus, the safer it is,” Poettgen said.

GYB trains its audience on how to intervene in situations that look unsafe or questionable. They touch on all sorts of scenarios and topics, though the emphasis is on sexual assault.

A GYB presentation lasts about an hour to an hour and a half. They are given in and outside of classes. A presentation covers all the different types of intervention, the steps to intervene and the strategies for intervening.

“When it is for a class they’re there because they are required to be there, so it can be interesting trying to get them to open up when they’re not choosing to be there,” Poettgen said.

That is one reason why GYB is going to try to expand this year and give more presentations.

“There seems to be this slow but sure cultural change happening,” peer health educator Anna Spielmann said. “People are getting fed up with rape culture.”

Poettgen talks about how she is hoping to change up the program as well.

“GYB is so intense, it’s a lot of information thrown at you in an hour,” Poettgen said.

She would like to have a base presentation and then work into workshops where people can practice those skills that they’re learning and role play.

“Sometimes it’s just stepping into the situation…it’s not always about an emergency, it’s just about being a friend to the people around you,” Spielmann said. “That’s what it comes down to.”

GYB also touches on what to do if you have been sexually assaulted and other things to remember as well.

“If you feel like you were assaulted, you were,” Poettgen said.

Poettgen also quoted Lauretta Perry, a mental health counselor.

“There is a difference between ‘what did we do last night’ and ‘what happened to me last night’.”

“It’s always a sticky situation and that is why we need to be able to talk about it,” Poettgen said.

Poettgen also hopes to have presentations that are specifically geared towards certain student organizations and professors as well.

Spielmann points out that some exposure to bystander intervention is better than none.

“If you can’t change a situation, that’s not something you should feel guilty about. Just do what you can,” Spielmann said.


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