Project Spotlight: Fighting Against Gender-Based Violence
Posted on March 14, 20180 comments 5839 Views
By Madison Scott
What does prevention mean to you?
WOU CASA, or Campus Against Sexual Assault, was initially funded in 2010 via a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. This project was formed with the intent to reduce stalking, sexual assaults, and dating and domestic violence. WOU CASA works closely with both the Student Health and Counseling Center and Public Safety to prevent or react to these incidents, often collectively called gender-based violence.
I sat down with the director of Abby’s House, Aislinn Addington, Ph.D., in order to find out what we can expect from this project in the coming months.
Recently, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) released a mandate that says all athletics participants must have sexual misconduct prevention training. This has provided an excellent opportunity for WOU CASA to meet these athletes on their own home court, so to speak, and get these individuals to participate in an interactive training where they get to learn but are also up and moving. Addington notes that, “So far, I think it’s been a positive experience. We’re partway through it, in terms of actually doing the training.”
In terms of future projects, Addington says one of the main focuses is sustainability. She states that she is “looking toward the next couple of years,” and trying to find “what mechanisms we [can] put in place now so that when the grant is gone we’re still doing this kind of work and we’re still having these kinds of conversations with people all around campus—versus just Abby’s House ... or just [Student] Conduct trying to do something.”
The other priority for the last few years of the grant is to increase the accessibility of resources to all demographics on campus. Addington notes that they’ve been focusing in particular on finding out how well they are serving students from underrepresented populations, such as LGBTQ students, international students, and students with disabilities.” To find this information, Addington says that “We keep, not by name, but we keep track of who comes in that we offer services to.” She continues,“And so we know that we see mostly this group or mostly that group and it’s not that these other groups aren’t experiencing gender-based violence necessarily, it’s just that we’re not reaching them for whatever reason.”
Of course, confidentiality is a big part of what Abby’s House and WOU CASA do. Addington herself is held to high standards of confidentiality as the sole professional staff member of Abby’s House. Additionally, Addington says that student advocates “have a responsibility to report gender-based violence.” However, these advocates only report information to a small circle of people on a need-to-know basis.
Beyond confidentiality, WOU CASA and Abby’s House need to have a very close relationship with both Public Safety and Student Health. Addington says, “I always encourage Public Safety officers, when they’re just doing their rounds, to come in and say hi. ...What I love is that there’s been officers that I haven’t seen for a long time, because they’ve been on night shift, and they will come in in plain clothes just to say hi and so that’s a good relationship that I’ve tried hard to cultivate.” Having a good relationship with these campus departments is vital to the success of Abby’s House and WOU CASA. “As part of our relationship with them, if we have someone that comes in to us and is ready to make a report to Public Safety about something, Public Safety will come to us so we don’t have to say ‘Oh, go to that house at the edge of campus. They’ll help you,’” Addington says. “The officer will come here, and I think that allows for not only safety, but also there’s a comfort in not picking up and making someone go someplace else.”
In regards to Student Health and Counseling, Addington revealed an important development in their relationship: “Our medical staff at the Student Health and Counseling Center have been training to be SANE [certified] and do forensic exams, so that’s something that they’re almost ready to do. They still have a little bit of training, they still need a little bit of equipment.” So we’re likely to see an awareness campaign in the near future spreading the news about these new services on campus.
On the topic of school resources and policies, Addington brought up the Student Conduct amnesty policy which offers a degree of forgiveness to students that have experienced gender-based violence, but were also drinking while underage. In those cases, the university is more concerned with the student’s well-being rather than the fact that they were drinking. In addition, she says, “We are also intentional about being survivor centered here [at Abby’s House] so that the resources we offer and the choices that the survivor makes are guided by the survivor rather than ‘You’re here now; okay, here’s the checklist of things you have to do.’ And that’s important to us.”
In regards to prevention, Addington says, “I am of the mind that if someone is suffering, we’re all suffering and these issues of gender-based violence just plague us and make me hurt for everybody. And so the prevention side of things I think is vital to changing our culture.” Additionally, she states that “This is a human problem that disproportionately affects women. But it affects everyone in some way. Everyone has a place in prevention and everyone needs to step up to that plate and recognize they have a place and they have something they can do.”