Carnegie Mellon University
April 29, 2019

CMU Works To Promote Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Year-Round

By Michael Henninger

Julia Mattera
  • Marketing and Communications
  • 412-268-2902

April 30 marks the end of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but at Carnegie Mellon University staff and faculty work throughout the year to end sexual assault. According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in 2015, 1 in 5 women said they were sexually assaulted in college. According to the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, the prevalence in the LGBTQ community is reported to be higher.

Carnegie Mellon University President Farnam Jahanian recognizes that the prevalence of sexual assault in higher education is a disturbing reality that must be confronted.

"In order for our students to take advantage of our world class education, we need to provide a safe, respectful and inclusive environment so that everyone feels comfortable," Jahanian said. "Each year we offer training and awareness campaigns. Our message is clear. We will not tolerate sexual violence, partner violence, or sexual harassment."

Carnegie Mellon participates in a number of initiatives aimed to make the university a safe environment by lowering the rate of sexual assault and providing resources to victims.

Green Dot at CMU

In 2017, Carnegie Mellon, in collaboration with leadership from the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education, hosted a facilitator training for Green Dot, drawing participants from institutions across the region like the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, Point Park University, Chatham University, Robert Morris University and the Community College of Allegheny County.

Green Dot is a national, evidence-based program that aims to reduce sexual assaults through cultural change. The program treats members of the campus community as allies against assault, and trains them to be active bystanders who know how to intervene in concerning situations.

"Green Dot came to Pittsburgh because of CMU," said Noah Riley, a health promotion specialist with Health Services who helps run the program. "Our goal is to have one or two facilitators in every college throughout campus. We're creating an interdisciplinary team to communicate to everyone on campus that power based personal violence won't be tolerated."

Green Dot's CMU facilitators have trained over 500 people, including staff, faculty and students. An "It's On Us" grant of $29,000 is funding additional facilitator training June 4-7. Deadline for registration is May 17.

Step Up

Every Labor Day, CMU's Sports Medicine Department runs a bystander intervention program called Step UP! for first-year student athletes. Like Green Dot, the program aims to develop students into active bystanders.

Sophomores, juniors and seniors receive booster sessions each year run by members of the Plaidvocates (student athletes that are peer-to-peer health and wellness advocates). The students are presented with different scenarios, like watching a male friend at a party go upstairs with a young woman who has had too much to drink. They then form small groups and discuss the best ways to respond.

Student athletes also participate in the One Love Escalation workshop on Labor Day. One Love is an organization that strives to teach students the signs of abusive relationships. It's named for Yeardley Love, who at age 22, was beaten to death by an ex-boyfriend.

Health Services

University Health Services, in conjunction with the Office of Title IX Initiatives, holds presentations focused on sexual health and consent for various student groups on campus. These presentations talk about safe-sex practices, barrier methods, sexually transmitted infections, contraceptives and consent.

The presentations happen monthly during the school semester and are designed to be interactive, said Lauren Aikin-Smith, a senior health promotion specialist for Health Services.

"We try to convey that honest communication about sexually transmitted infections and birth control are part of consent," Aikin-Smith said. "It's important to have these conversations before sexual activity occurs."

Office of Title IX Initiatives

Title IX is a 1972 civil rights law that makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex, which has been interpreted to include sexual harassment, sexual violence and gender identity discrimination.

Jamie Edwards-Pasek, associate director of Title IX Initiatives, describes her office as, "tasked with coordinating Carnegie Mellon's efforts to prevent all forms of sexual discrimination, including sexual misconduct, and with effectively responding to those issues."

The Office of Title IX Initiatives offers various training and education programs. They infuse health, alcohol, relationship and safe-sex information into orientation programming. During orientation, all first-year students are required to complete an AlcoholEdu for College + Sexual Assault Prevention online course.

They run consent and healthy relationship workshops, and train student-facing staff and students in leadership roles about sexual health and assault. The Title IX office also helped University Police develop new protocols for dealing with sexual assault cases that separated the roles of first responder and investigator.

The Office of Institutional Research coordinated with The Office of Title IX Initiatives, Student Affairs,and other key campus partners to study both how sexual assault and relationship violence and discriminatory and sexual harassment affect students.