By: Savina Koda/Contributing Writer
Student sexual assault prevention projects that were previously conceptual will finally be implemented this April.
Professor Victoria Burns from the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies teaches a class each year that concludes with students presenting proposals for initiatives to prevent sexual assault at the University. Although these proposals have gotten media coverage in the past, they never went forward beyond the planning stage. This year, the University’s Women’s Center is partnering with Burns to bring these proposals to life.
The class, “Understanding and Preventing Campus Sexual Assault,” was originally offered as a temporary special topics course in Spring 2018, but, has since become successful and made into a permanent course this semester.
However, during the first two semesters of the course the class was structured differently to the way it is today.
“Students had to come up with an actual sexual assault prevention plan for FIU’s campus. Some of them are actually being implemented,” Burns said.
Burns told Student Media that all students in previous semesters wished they could all see through their projects. This prompted Burns and her teaching assistant, senior psychology student Anilenia Hernandez, to partner with the WC this semester and give every student an opportunity to plan their project in hopes of having it implemented on campus.
“This [semester’s projects] are based a lot more on engaging the students,” said Burns.
Instead of creating program proposals, this semester’s students will host a tabling event where they will present their projects to University students and faculty.
There is a wide range of project topics of discussion this semester. One group is focusing on the way that rape culture is present in the media. Another group will present on awareness for male sexual assault victims, who are often overlooked in the sexual assault discussion, according to Burns. Other topics include rape culture in everyday language, consent and consent in the media, toxic masculinity and stalking.
From those topics, one project getting ready to be put into effect is a radio show discussing sexuality, consent, relationships and other related topics. Another group is working to begin LGBTQ- inclusive workshops dealing with sexual assault for students.
“We encouraged all the groups to be really cognizant of diversity… especially student groups that tend to be overlooked and invisible like LGBTQ+ students, women of color, students with disabilities,” Burns said.
In addition to their projects, students in the course are taught the fundamental components of sexual assault and prevention studies in general, and then more specifically campus sexual assault.
“Specific to college campuses, [there are] different groups that tend to be victimized more, like women of color and people with disabilities. And then, there are the groups that have a higher rate of perpetration, like student athletes and Greek life,” said Hernandez.
Hernandez and her group centered their project on the intersection between consent and alcohol. The goal of their project was to encourage the introduction of mandatory consent and alcohol workshops in all First Year Experience classes to expose these concepts to students as early as possible while in the University.
“Racism, sexism, homophobia, rape culture, toxic masculinity- all those things kind of culminate and affect people’s experiences day-to-day and in the grand scheme of thing,” said Hernandez.