Student Leadership When Addressing Healthy Dating & Sexual Assault Awareness
RA’s, Orientation Leaders, Peer Educators, and many other student leaders have fantastic opportunities to lead, especially when they are around other students on their campus. The challenge is “How Far Will You Go” to make a difference? Are you willing to take on an issue — even when you are not “required” or “expected” to address the specific subject matter?
When the issue of sexual assault awareness arises among student leaders, most of the leaders share that they participate in the “standard” talk about parties, date rape drugs, locking doors to the residence halls, etc… However, very few student leaders take action toward creating a “healthy and respectful atmosphere” in their living quarters.
A couple (Partner A and Partner B) is returning from a party at 11:30 PM. They are arriving at the living quarters of Partner A who lives in the residence hall. Partner A has been drinking, but is not belligerent or obnoxious (simply “tipsy”). Partner B appears to be sober. You observe the couple going towards Partner A’s room. Do you do anything?
Most students report that they would check-in on Partner A and make sure that everything is okay. If everything appears to be okay, the observing student will tell Partner A to be careful.
A few student leaders (very few) would do the following: Approach Partner A to see if the person has been drinking. Once established that Partner A has been drinking, the student leader would turn to Partner B and say, “Thank you for bringing Partner A back to the hall. We really appreciate it. We will take care of everything from here. Thanks again.” If Partner B gets upset or starts arguing, the student leader would say, “Look, Partner A has been drinking and it is our responsibility to make sure that our floor mate is okay and safe in this hall. We don’t want to get you into trouble or Partner A — so please let us take care of Partner A.” If Partner B becomes violent or threatening, the student leaders would call security and immediately have the person written up. If the student leader was not a RA, then the student leader would seek out the RA or the hall director to help intervene.
Some people ask “Why would you get involved in this situation?” In most states, you cannot give consent if you are not of sound mind (which drinking can certainly contribute to a person not being of “sound mind”). What are the odds that sexual contact will be taking place in the room of Partner A — once the couple goes into the room by themselves? The far majority of students state that the odds are tremendously high that sexual activity of some kind will take place in a room of a couple returning from a party, especially when one partner has been drinking and is tipsy.
What if the situation was different? If Partner B was talking violently or in a threatening manner toward Partner A, then would you interfere? Most student leaders answer, “Immediately.” If you had heard a rumor that Partner B had sexually assaulted another student on campus, then would you interfere? The majority of student leaders reply, “Of course.” What is the difference? A person who is acting “violently” or “mean” appears to be obvious. However, — if Partner B is not acting so obviously, people are more likely to ASSUME that Partner B is safe. A dangerous assumption.
The question becomes “How far will you go to help protect your fellow students?”
– written by Mike Domitrz, Founder of The DATE SAFE Project and Host of the award-winning DVD HELP! My Teen Is Dating. Realistic Solutions to Tough Conversations (available on sale by clicking here). Each year, over 80 educational and military installations around the world bring Mike to share insightful how-to skills for discussing respect in dating, boundaries, bystander intervention and helping your loved ones come to you in difficult times. Plus, over 40,000 copies of Mike’s books May I Kiss You? and Voices of Courage have been distributed internationally.
To obtain permission to reprint any or all portions of this article, Email Mike here