IU creates new office to combat sexual violence

The Office for Sexual Violence Prevention and Victim Advocacy set up its booth at the end of the space being used near Showalter Fountain for the Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll event. For some incoming freshmen at the Welcome Week event, talking with people from the new office may have been their first experience with IU’s efforts to prevent sexual violence.

The Office for Sexual Violence Prevention and Victim Advocacy will bring together various teams that work to prevent sexual violence around campus, Leslie Fasone, the office's director, said. Confidential Victim Advocates, the Culture of Care student team and parts of Sexual Assault Crisis Services now operate together, helping students find resources by combining them into one group.

“I think this will be another step forward, using past momentum and past initiatives to change the culture around sexual violence,” Fasone said.  

Mandy Hussey, a marketing director for the IU Health Center and Division of Student Affairs, said the office is located in a house at 506 N. Fess Ave., near Collins Living-Learning Center. For her, the office’s preventative measures are a needed shift in how the University handles sexual violence.

“There’s been a big call on campus to focus on prevention instead of just being a response team,” Hussey said.

Fasone said her office will stress how many forms of violence, including dating violence, assault, harassment and stalking, will not be tolerated at IU.

[The IDS has long been dedicated to covering sexual assault at IU. Read our three-part series from winter 2016 here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 and continue reading idsnews.com for an upcoming investigation.]

Because the Office for Sexual Violence Prevention and Victim Advocacy mainly focuses on stopping sexual violence before it happens, some of the Sexual Assault Crisis Services will stay in the health center, Fasone said. Victims should still reach out to the health center to get assistance from specialized nurses and counselors if they have experienced an episode of sexual violence.

“We thought it was important for students to have a place they could identify where they could go when they experience sexual violence,” Fasone said.

One of the biggest changes that will be implemented this year through the office will be It’s on Us, a new in-person bystander intervention workshop for all first-year students. Graduate students will also have a similar program tailored to their needs.

Fasone said this peer-to-peer training will accompany the education provided by the “Welcome to College” musical students see at orientation and the MyStudentBody online course. Organizers will make it easy for first-year students to complete It’s on Us by setting up workshop times in different residence halls in the coming months. 

This program helps make sexual violence prevention education an ongoing effort at IU, Fasone said. It is given in person to help provide students with context they might miss from the online lessons. 

“We're trying to tailor and adapt our workshops and information sessions based on student need,” Fasone said.

At Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll, Emmalee Fishburn stood at the office’s booth in a gray Culture of Care T-shirt. It did not bear her title as the assistant director for Culture of Care, but it let the students wandering between tents know she oversees the student-led assault prevention team now aligned with the new office. 

Prevention and advocacy are the new office's main priorities, Fishburn said. The two-pronged approach will allow it to use what it learns in one branch to improve parts of the other.

Fishburn is not a student, but she said she is excited to see how the campus culture might improve from the creation of the new office.

“I hope that students can get a sense of feeling safe and supported from the office and know there is somewhere they can go,” Fishburn said.

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