Sexual misconduct prevention office makes big impact in short time

December 12, 2018 - Penny Davis

More than 30,000 students, faculty and staff have received prevention training since April 30, as Michigan State University redoubles efforts to combat relationship violence and sexual misconduct (RVSM) through revised and expanded prevention programs.

Michigan State now requires that all first- and second-year students attend in-person RVSM prevention and bystander intervention training. The trainings not only encourage dialogue with students but exceed requirements in recent Michigan sexual assault prevention legislation.

The university also now offers customized prevention training programs for academic units, offices and populations including athletes, fraternities and sororities and teaching assistants.

“We’ve had in-person sexual assault and relationship violence prevention training on campus going back 10 years, but it was focused specifically on first-year students,” MSU Prevention Outreach and Education (POE) Director Kelly Schweda said. “Bringing prevention efforts into this department has allowed MSU to more effectively align resources, programming and education outreach for the campus community. This approach allows us to cast a wider net to include upperclassmen, graduate students, faculty and staff on critical issues.”

Created last spring upon the recommendation of the university’s Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Expert Advisory Workgroup, POE is charged with promoting safety and improving quality of life by educating members of the MSU campus community on RVSM issues; eliminating violence on campus; empowering staff, faculty and students to become advocates for a non-violent community; and positively affecting social change.

The department has grown to include a director, associate director and six prevention specialists, each with an area of expertise. Since its creation, the department has created new opportunities for awareness and dialogue across campus through:

  • Expanding faculty and staff training, collaboration and outreach around topics such as understanding the RVSM policy, navigating disclosures and supporting survivors.
  • Creating new training to better meet the needs of student-athletes and staff.
  • Developing outreach and education for graduate students.
  • Updating student orientation materials to place emphasis on self-empowerment, RVSM training requirements and awareness of support services.
  • Developing individualized plans to help departments address culture climate issues.
  • Enhancing the “Greeks Take the Lead” fraternity and sorority RVSM prevention program.

“We are committed to empowering our graduate teaching assistants and faculty members with the tools to respond to disclosures of RVSM in ways that are survivor-centered and trauma-informed,” Graduate School assistant dean Melissa McDaniels said. “To that end, the specialists at POE worked with our team to develop a tailored workshop and toolkit that promotes a culture of care in our community.

“The workshop helped us better understand our role as mandatory reporters and gave us tools to educate students about the resources available at MSU, both to prevent and respond to incidents of RVSM,” she said. “The feedback on the training from our students and faculty was overwhelmingly positive and we look forward to continuing to work with POE.”

Support services and education efforts are aided on campus by MSU’s Know More awareness campaign. Launched this fall, Know More acknowledges RVSM and promotes resources and options available to survivors within the campus and community