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Rio Leads Regional Sexual Assault and Prevention Awareness Campaign

by Jessica Patterson

June 22, 2017

A panel of students, staff and survivor advocates host a discussion following a screening of The Hunting Ground, a documentary about sexual assault problems in higher education.

A panel of students, staff and survivor advocates host a discussion following a screening of The Hunting Ground, a documentary about sexual assault problems in higher education.

The University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College are leading efforts to create awareness to issues affecting college campuses across the nation and create safer campus communities throughout Ohio. Rio has teamed up with three other higher education institutions in Southeast Ohio to launch sexual assault prevention and awareness campaigns. These efforts will focus on providing students and the campus community with the knowledge and tools to take an active part in changing campus culture and helping victims to speak out and receive needed support and resources. Chris Nourse, Title IX coordinator, said Rio is dedicated to enhancing Title IX’s recent work in sexual assault prevention programs and services and hopes this new initiative will continue to further those efforts.

“This campaign will focus on spreading awareness to the problem of sexual violence and assault on college campuses and the importance of bystander intervention efforts to help prevent it. We are planning to offer training sessions to our students, staff and faculty to provide awareness about the issues, how best to support and respond to survivors and what we can all do to prevent the problem from occurring on our campuses,” Nourse said. “Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. In recent years, Title IX has taken a large focus on sexual assault and violence on college campuses across the country, so our initiative will help us to bring even more awareness to the problem and what we can do to prevent it. Our goal is to promote a campus culture of shared responsibility and mutual respect for all students.”

The See, Hear, Speak Campaign initiatives are being made possible by the Inspiring a Community of Shared Responsibility Grant, which awarded funding to Rio, Ohio University Southern, Shawnee State University and Southern State Community College. Rio will take the lead to put together different components of the campaign such as summits and “lunch-and-learn” discussions to train student groups and community partners in ways to prevent sexual assault and share that knowledge with others. Director of Workforce Development and Grants Coordinator at Rio, Ian Blache wrote the grant as well as the campaign plan and will serve as administrative lead for the project. He said he was thrilled Rio and its partners won this competitive grant and is excited to see the campaign’s initiatives put into action.

“This grant was created to help us achieve the goals of the state’s Changing Campus Culture initiative. Higher education institutions have a responsibility to spread awareness and help educate their campus communities on ways to prevent sexual assault on college campuses,” Blache said. “It’s important for us to partner with the other institutions because this is a problem on college campuses around the nation. Having a larger number of individuals through all of our institutions involved will help spread the message at an exponential rate. This allows us to utilize each other’s resources and relationships to create a stronger, more efficient campaign.”

Dena Warren, deputy Title IX coordinator, said the most important part of this initiative is to better respond to and prevent this serious and widespread problem. By increasing awareness and prevention efforts we provide the tools for students, staff, faculty and the community with the opportunity to speak out against offensive behavior, interpersonal violence and sexual assaults on college campuses. “Rio and our fellow institutions in Southeast Ohio take this issue very seriously. We want to make sure our students are safe and have both an increased knowledge of sexual assault prevention and an atmosphere of caring where they aren’t afraid to speak up. We want them to know this is not okay on our campuses and any reports will be taken just as seriously,” Warren said. “This collaboration is key to sustaining this campaign for years to come. Our campuses are very different, but we are all the same when it comes to this topic. It isn’t just Rio taking care of Rio; it’s each institution reaching out to support each other as well as our communities.”

For more information on Title IX or sexual assault prevention campaigns, contact Chris Nourse at 740-245-7228 or Dena Warren at 740-245-7396.