Building a network

All University faculty should be required to complete Survivor Support Network training

Approximately 20 faculty members attended Survivor Support Network training Wednesday, which was conducted by Claire Kaplan and Charlotte Chapman of the Women’s Center. The training session lasted about three hours, and included definitions of sexual misconduct, discussion of trauma, review of reporting obligations, a panel Q & A with student survivors and hypothetical scenarios done in groups.

Soon, all faculty members will be required to complete an online training program, which will focus on policy surrounding sexual misconduct, including the new mandatory reporting requirement for all responsible employees. But this training will be limited in comparison to SSN training. Survivor Support Network goes beyond administrative issues to teach faculty how to empathize with and create a safe space for survivors.

As we discussed in our editorial about mandatory reporting policies, students would probably be more likely to make an initial report to a confidential employee, like a counselor. But students may still turn to faculty members, and under certain circumstances may feel obligated to tell a faculty member for academic purposes, like needing extensions on assignments because of psychological difficulties.

Fourth-year College student and One Less President Ashley Brown was on the panel at Wednesday’s SSN training, and shared her experience of missing a lot of class during difficult times in recovering from her assault. She recommended that if professors see students missing a lot of class and assignments, they make an effort to reach out to them and show concern for their wellbeing, so they are “coming more from a place of compassion and less from a place of authority.”

Professors ought to take on this compassionate role because it will make survivors feel encouraged they can get help, rather than feeling overwhelmed and defeated. Professors can also direct students to necessary sources if they notice a student is struggling. But learning how to take on this compassionate role and learning why it’s important would not be possible with a limited online training. The Survivor Support Network training humanizes and personalizes the issue, which is why all faculty should be required to complete it.

Survivor Support Network training encourages participants to generate ideas and questions which are answered by trained experts and student survivors. Faculty hopefully come away from this experience with a better understanding of the nuances of sexual misconduct policy, and the real effect of sexual violence on human beings.

As Charlotte Chapman, Director of Counseling Services for the Women’s Center said during SSN training, “Trauma affects all of us.” We may not have all experienced it, but we probably know someone who has. Not only is the entire community responsible for preventing sexual assault, the community as a whole is responsible for creating a supportive environment for survivors. The Women’s Center will continue to offer SSN training for faculty who wish to participate. Hopefully the University will provide them with sufficient resources to give the training to all faculty, so we can continue to build this community of support.


Published September 5, 2014 in Opinion







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