Across the country, interpersonal violence is an issue that impacts us all. It is important to be able to offer the services and resources of the VOICE Center to those individuals who have been impacted by interpersonal violence. At the VOICE Center we will continue to provide direct services to survivors and their friends and family when they reach out for support. However, the VOICE Center also believes that crimes of interpersonal violence like sexual assault are preventable. Through our prevention and education program, we seek to engage our community in identifying and addressing those areas of our culture that contribute to, and allow violence to exist.
Prevention philosophy has shifted nationally over the years and historically has focused on strategies surrounding tactics where the potential victim attempts to reduce the risk of an act of interpersonal violence from occurring. Because of what we know about interpersonal violence, where these crimes occur, and those that commit these crimes; focusing solely on these strategies to prevent interpersonal violence fails to hold the perpetrator accountable and often leads directly to victim blaming. Victim blaming focuses the responsibility of preventing a crime like sexual assault on the potential survivor rather than placing the responsibility where it belongs; with the perpetrator. At the VOICE Center our education programs seek to address the behavior and actions of perpetrators as well as the culture that enables and allows these actions to take place.
At the VOICE Center, we believe that true prevention can be achieved through education, culture change, bystander intervention, and social action.
Through our education programs we seek to raise awareness, address rape-myths, and build empathy with the campus and surrounding community. Utilizing research and data driven approaches, we offer customized programs and tools to examine the prevalence of interpersonal violence in our community and the impact it has on our campus. Often times we find that our attitudes and beliefs on interpersonal violence are informed by what are commonly referred to as rape myths. Rape myths are widely held beliefs about how interpersonal violence plays out in any given community but are not backed by research and tend to contradict the experiences and stories of survivors. Our programming addresses these myths and responds to them with research collected by multi-disciplinary professionals and the experiences of survivors.
Like many other education topics, we need our audience to connect to the information on a more personal level. Building empathy for these issues among our campus and community members is vital to the success of our prevention efforts. Many have the experience of sitting
through a presentation on the prevention of interpersonal violence that relies heavily on statistics and legal definitions and uses these as the thesis for why an audience should care about an issue like sexual assault. At the VOICE Center, we are very intentional about the use of statistics and legal terms in our education to ensure that they support and strengthen the message and do not detract from the goal of creating a shared understanding of the impact these crimes have on our community. We ask the audience to reflect and draw upon their own experiences and on those of their friends and loved ones as it can be hard to care for or relate to a statistical number or term. At the end of a presentation, the goal is that the audience will begin to critically think about how interpersonal violence effects the lives of their friends, family, and fellow community members at Montana State University and become motivated to make a change to stand up against interpersonal violence on our campus.
Our prevention efforts focus on the concept that acts of interpersonal violence are not isolated events and do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, they are reinforced and reproduced over the years supported by social and cultural norms. The prevention of interpersonal violence can seem like a daunting task, so our education program seeks to break down an act of violence into all of the social and cultural factors that can lead to that act occurring. Some of these factors include language, rigid gender roles and stereotypes, objectification and dehumanization, discrimination, and victim blaming. Examining these different factors cross referenced with other social factors like identity, race, and socioeconomic status allow us to examine the role they play in allowing interpersonal violence to exist in our community. Once we accept certain social and cultural aspects for the potentially harmful factors they are, we start to see how addressing our culture through education, social action, and bystander intervention leads to prevention. Breaking down cultural factors in this manner shows our community that prevention is possible and it can start today.
Bystander Intervention is the act of choosing to step in, speak up, or get involved in a situation that may be potentially harmful or go against our common values as a campus and a community. In general, we have been socialized to “mind our own business” or think that someone else will handle a situation that makes us uncomfortable. The reality often is that many people will notice a situation that should be addressed and wait for someone else do to something and the situation is allowed to continue. Bystander intervention seeks to break that cycle and show that interpersonal violence is a community issue that undermines our common values and requires a sense of collective responsibility to address and intervene. Often times, people think that intervention can only happen when there is an imminent or active threat to an individual. While that is true, bystander intervention can also happen at many different levels, before the situation gets to that point, and often in areas that culturally have not been labeled as violence. Many choose not to intervene because they view doing so as conflictual. Bystander
intervention philosophy actually shows that some of the most effective and successful practices and strategies do not involve conflict at all and actually discourage such tactics.
The VOICE Center recognizes that many in our community have found themselves in situations where they wanted to step in and help someone, but they didn’t know how or were not confident in their skills. To address this, the VOICE Center has developed trainings and workshops to allow participants to explore bystander intervention and build their confidence and skills in this area.
Every presentation and educational program concludes with a call to action to the audience and community. The VOICE Center believes that prevention is not possible without the efforts of the campus and community making a stand to shift our culture to one that supports survivors and does not tolerate interpersonal violence. To that end, student organizations have formed under the mentorship of the VOICE Center to actively address those areas of our culture that allow interpersonal violence to exist in our community. Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) aims to raise awareness and take action to end interpersonal violence by holding rallies and marches, educational events, media campaigns, and fundraisers. Their primary goal is to address those social and cultural factors that contribute to interpersonal violence and promote an inclusive community that values respect, consent, and healthy relationships. To learn more about SASA or how to get involved (link to SASA, VPW)
Violence Prevention Workshop:
Violence manifests itself in many ways, and it is quite clear that it has impacted our community at MSU. While the level at which our community has experienced violence is troubling, there is hope. Almost every individual surveyed at MSU stated that they would be there to listen, believe, and support survivors of interpersonal violence. Over 90% of MSU students stated they would intervene if they felt more comfortable with their skills and there was an atmosphere that supported bystander intervention. So how do we build those skills and connect individuals willing to stand up for change to the issues that allow violence to exist?
The VOICE Center is inviting students, staff, and community members to spend half a day with us to learn how you can help prevent violence, support survivors, and create a safer community. Creating a Community of Respect: A Violence Prevention Workshop is offered to anyone who is interested in learning more about the issues impacting our
campus and how they can get involved to help create change. The workshop is FREE and open to all MSU staff members, students (both current and incoming), and community members.
The Violence Prevention Workshop seeks to bridge the divide between the seemingly daunting task of violence prevention and a community that sincerely desires culture change. Attendees will participate in sessions that break down the work of violence prevention while raising awareness and building skills in the following areas:
- Survivor support services and resources
- Prevalence and Empathy building
- How Gender impacts violence
- Contributing factors and foundations of violence
- Understanding the law and legal definitions
- Reframing how we think about perpetrators
- Bystander Intervention
The workshop ends with a call to action and a solid plan for attendees to take the skills and information they have been given out into our community. At the VOICE Center, we believe that everyone plays a vital role in helping to transform attitudes and actions regarding sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking. Register today for Creating a Community of Respect: A Violence Prevention Workshop and become a part of culture change in our community.
In addition, this workshop serves as the prerequisite training for any individual interested in volunteering with the VOICE Center. Following the completion of this workshop, all participants are welcome and encouraged to apply to become a confidential VOICE Center advocate. Email [email protected] or call us at 406.994.5682 for information about upcoming Violence Prevention Workshops
Additional presentation topics:
This workshop discusses the topic of consent with your students in efforts to examine what healthy consent looks like, what happens when consent is not present, and how this affects your students directly. We use interactive activities, videos, and small group discussions in this program.
- Learning objectives:
- Provide students with the opportunity to discuss misconceptions about consent and alcohol in a safe and informational environment
- Help students define and understand the definition of consent.
This workshop was developed to get students thinking about the stereotypes assigned to certain gender populations and how these stereotypes affect our culture and us as individuals.
- Learning objectives
- Break down the common stereotypes surrounding gender and begin thinking about individual influence on gender and gender-related violence.
- Provide students with the tools to challenge gender stereotyping in their day-to-day lives.
Pyramid of Violence:
Pyramid of Violence is a very popular presentation that takes a close look at our culture, examines how violence survives and maintains within our culture, and works to discuss methods for challenging the foundation that allows violence to exist in our community.
- Learning objectives
- Examine the impact of language, jokes, and seemingly harmless interactions that contribute to cultural acceptance of interpersonal violence. Using the information provided by the class, we will facilitate a discussion about how seemingly harmless interactions can allow for violent actions and beliefs to cultivate.
- Provide tools to challenge the cultural influences that cultivate interpersonal violence.
This presentation offers an interactive discussion on relationships within today’s society. We cover components of healthy and unhealthy relationships using an interactive relationship spectrum that gives students that opportunity to explore the difference between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships.
- Learning objectives
- Examine your views on relationships, how you "do" relationships, and how they impact your time at MSU as a student and beyond.
- Provide tools and resources to help other students or loved-ones that may be experiencing relationship violence.
The Bystander Intervention presentation focuses on developing skills and tools for bystander intervention which is a key component in reducing the incidents of sexual assault and interpersonal violence in our community.
- Learning Objectives
- Examine scenarios and determine based on their own morals and values when the situation has become inappropriate or harmful. Based on the information provided by the students, we will facilitate a discussion about safe and effective ways to intervene in the situations highlighted by the audience.
- Provide options and ideas for intervening according to certain personality types and levels of involvement.
Students Against Sexual Assault:
Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) is a club that focuses on and celebrates healthy relationships on the MSU campus and within the community. SASA members are MSU students from a diverse range of backgrounds who stand together to speak out against all forms of violence. SASA believes education is a crucial part of prevention and actively seeks to increase awareness about stalking, relationship violence, and sexual assault.
SASA's goal is to:
- Liminate these concerns from our community
- Create a caring and understanding environment for survivors.
In accordance with this, SASA sponsors and hosts campus and community events including film screenings, speak outs, marches, art displays, and educational presentations. SASA members use their voices to create a positive impact in everyday conversations and at campus and community events. SASA stands up for its beliefs on individual as well as societal levels. Members are activists who have non-violent worldviews and stand strong in the face of adversity.