Knowledge is power

Attending School of Public Health trained me to look through social problems in big pictures. The change of a single policy and the spread of one piece of information could benefits huge amount of population. And my summer internship at Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health’s (MOASH) gave me deeper feeling about this.

The Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health’s (MOASH) Michigan Youth Consent Day (MY Consent Day) is an awareness campaign that does focus on consent among college students, it aims to be a credible and valuable resource for all young people in Michigan. The information provided is relevant to adolescents across the state and can be tailored to meet the needs of most groups wanting to implement their own awareness campaign on the issue of consent vs non-consent.

Here are some facts: In the state of Michigan, 4% of males and 25% of female students experience sexual assault on college campuses. Over 40% of LGBT students get sexually assaulted during their time as university students in Michigan. 65% of sexual assaults go unreported and unrecognized due to lack of knowledge of consent, rights and resources. According to the 2012 FBI Crime Report, Michigan had the third highest reported rates per 100,000 people compared to other states in the U.S. All these facts indicate that prevention education of sexual assault among Michigan adolescents is incredibly important.

Sexual assault among students at universities/colleges is a serious issue. As a student at a school in Michigan, I have learned that it is important to know how to protect, not only ourselves, but also our friends from being sexually assaulted. A large piece of this is gaining an understanding of the difference between consent and nonconsent. Without this, it is all too easy to overlook (and be dismissive of) serious acts of sexual assault when (a) it happens to us, (b) is done by us to others, and/or (c) when we hear of sexual assault situations from others after the fact.  Without educating ourselves, we are only perpetuating a culture that is apathetic about this issue, allowing for indifference and disregard by policymakers, law enforcement, school administration, and other critical players instrumental in any hope for creating change that will result in effective prevention, discipline for offenders, and support for survivors.

Many universities in Michigan appear to address sexual assault among their students, at least to some degree. The largest schools seem to have the easiest programs/resources to identify.  Michigan State University, for example has a sexual assault counseling center. Volunteers from the Sexual Assault Crisis Intervention team are trained to provide supportive service to sexual assault survivors (this group is also putting on A MY Consent Day event on 9/22!). The college of Communication Arts & Sciences also creates an Every Two Minutes (E2M) documentary and theater performance to address sexual violence issue.  Wayne State University lists the sexual assault and harassment policy on their student conduct services webpage. Students can also find complaint process and a series of resources available for survivors.  At the University of Michigan, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) provides educational and supportive resources, including a 24 hour crisis line.  As of the 2014-2015 school year, UM freshmen are required to take a series of online informational modules, (1) AlcoholEdu for College and (2) Haven-Understanding Sexual Assault learning how to identify sexual assault, appropriately respond to sexual assault, and protect themselves from sexual assaulted in a college environment.

The website of MOASH offers a multitude of educational materials for adolescents attending smaller colleges/high schools, community colleges/high schools, online institutions, with the lack of supporting healthy sexual education. Questionnaires ask readers to test their knowledge about ways of handling nonconsensual and bystander situations. Articles provide information regarding laws and policies on this issue. MY Consent Day also shares findings on the development of innovative ways to combat this issue, such as phone apps.  For example, the Circle of 6 app can connect six close friends, and with just two taps, can notify friends of your location and that you need help. An emergency tab is also available to let the user report sexual assault in a safe and efficient way. For adolescents who are interested in learning knowledge to protect themselves from sexual assault, MY Consent Day is a great website to start with.

Knowledge is power when dealing with situations of consent and sexual assault.

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