Campus / News / April 8, 2009

Training for sexual assault respondents

Most students were welcomed to Knox with Sex Signals, and respond to hearing that name with either a laugh or a groan. We all know, in theory, how to avoid being sexually assaulted. But when someone is assaulted, many people do not know where to turn. While Knox is currently working to make the Grievance Panel more effective and approachable, a few students have decided to do their own part.

A class designed to teach the skills to volunteer as responders for victims of sexual assault has come to Galesburg. The first two classes were Friday and Saturday, April 3 and 4. They took place at The Center, and are taught by Diane Mayfield, director of the Western Illinois Resource Center (WIRC) in Macomb.

Robin Ragan brought this opportunity to campus, and was instrumental in making it happen. She said she had taken this course before, and found it a valuable experience that she recommended to anyone interested. She hopes to make this training an annual event, so Knox students who could not participate this year will have the opportunity later.

While this training was open to Galesburg residents and Knox students alike, 12 of the 13 participants were Knox students, a mixed-gender group ranged from freshmen to seniors.

The thirteenth was a woman from Galesburg. Diane Mayfield said she was glad to see a number of males present. Women have been talking about sexual assault for centuries, but as the majority of perpetrators are men, until they join in the conversation nothing will change. In previous years, Diane saw only police officers required to take the training, but has had an increasing number of male pupils over the years.

Galesburg is considered underrepresented in terms of sexual assault aid, because the nearest center is in Macomb. Anyone desiring counseling or legal aid would have to go there. One intention of this course is that some of the people taking it will volunteer when a representative is needed in Galesburg.

Volunteering with the WIRC would entail being on call to talk to victims when they check in to the hospital. Often the most important aspect of this work is simply listening and giving victims the knowledge they are not alone — as Diane calls it, “the gift of presence.” Unfortunately, there are few to do this for Galesburg residents right now.

This training is designed to give participants the skills to volunteer at the WIRC or centers like it. So far the class has covered the social, legal and medical ordeals many victims go through, along with the culture that provokes sexual assault, known as “rape culture.” The format has included group discussions, lectures, interactive activities and films.

Participants have found this training exhilarating but depressing. Sexual assault is a hard, necessary subject. Approximately one in six women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, but no one wants to talk about it. This group has dedicated 40 hours to talking about it.

Charles Ely

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