Sexual Assault Prevention Training: I’ve Led a Sheltered Life

As part of some training at work, I’ve been watching some videos on how to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment. These aren’t just short 5-minute affairs, either. It probably took an hour or so to get through the whole thing, which is part of the Not Anymore campaign. They’re well-produced and probably quite effective, but let’s just say that I never came across anything like them during my undergrad days at BYU.

I’m not saying that BYU is an alcohol and sex-free environment. Then again, in 2013 it only had 3 criminal offenses (all of them sexual assaults) and 14 liquor or drug arrests–at a campus of over 31,000 students. T0 put it in comparison, the University of Utah (32,000 students) had 153 criminal offenses (lots of burglaries, apparently–9 sexual assaults) and 96 drug or liquor arrests. To put that even further into comparison, Penn State (46,000 students) had 163 criminal offenses (36 sexual assaults) and 1,335 drug and liquor arrests. (My current employer? University of Maine at Farmington (2,000 students): 4 criminal offenses (no sexual assaults) and 45 drug and liquor arrests.) (For more fun with statistics, see here.)

To have 16 times the students and still have one third the drug and liquor arrests? Those statistics say something, folks. They say that my undergraduate years were pretty darned sheltered in comparison to many.

This is just background information to put my response to this training in context. The Not Anymore approach is basically to show a series of videos that discuss what’s appropriate and inappropriate when it comes to sexual relationships. They’re not graphic, but they definitely leave little to the imagination about what’s going on, and it’s so different from my college experience, I couldn’t help but be a bit wide-eyed.

Case in point: almost a third of the presentation was focused on how to determine if the other person wanted to have sex with you or not. What does “no” mean, and what means “no”? That sort of thing. For me at BYU, things were fairly clean cut: unless the two of you have stood in front of an altar or a judge and said “I do,” then sex is pretty much out.

It talked about what to do if guys corner girls in their room, or how to get out of a situation where a guy’s essentially trying to rape a girl. What to do if you see an acquaintance get drugged. How to handle a drunk friend who’s getting taken advantage of.

Basically, a rundown of the many situations I’ve never experienced in college. I don’t mean to be dismissive of it–I’m all for people being more aware and more protective of each other, and if this program helps even one person avoid getting sexually assaulted, then it will have done something important (and I tend to think it will do much more than that–it’s helping to raise awareness, which I believe will do much in this area). All I’m doing is wondering if things have always been like this, or if they’ve gotten more extreme in the last 15 years.


6 thoughts on “Sexual Assault Prevention Training: I’ve Led a Sheltered Life”

  1. Even without the alcohol, girls get sexually assaulted at BYU. Not at the rates that they do at other schools, but there is definitely harassment, coercion, and even assault that happens. Also, I think that because many sex issues at BYU don’t go as far as rape, people don’t take them seriously. For a devout Mormon girl, being forced to perform sex acts is just as devastating (well, and would likely be devastating for any girl). I do wish they had some kind of training like this tailored for the BYU audience and didn’t just assume that the lack of alcohol or the presence of an Honor Code means that people know how to navigate relationships, sex, and consent.

  2. Oh, the training would definitely work at BYU–I just don’t think they’d use it, because the baseline assumption in the training is “All the college students are going to be having lots of sex. Let’s make sure they do it the right way,” which for obvious reasons doesn’t jive with the Y’s approach. But being forced to perform sex acts is sexual assault, period. Regardless of the acts or the religions of the people involved.

    1. Yeah, they would need something that doesn’t start with the assumption that students are all going to have sex. I think there is also a cultural assumption that certain people are ‘bad’ and you can tell who they are, or that victims somehow deserve it because maybe they were breaking the rules in some way (dressing immodestly, breaking curfew, lying down on the couch with a guy, etc). I think sex assault training at BYU would have to break down a lot of cultural baggage, and that would be a good thing. I worry that people at BYU, or in the Church in general, look at the conversations other universities are having about sex and consent and think “Oh, we don’t need to worry about that”. Um, not true.

  3. I entered BYU in 2004, and they *did* have a police officer come and teach a class on preventing rape/harassment/stalking to everyone in the dorms. She covered everything from what’s legally stalking to how many people they’d arrested in the field next to DT with powerful lenses looking into dorm windows (and thus encouraged us all to close our blinds when changing clothes). We were all given whistles that attached to our keychains, and were told about a safety program where you can call campus police to walk you home when it’s dark.

    I totally used the safety-walk program while at BYU. One of the officers told me that they were always happy when people called — walking someone home and having a conversation was way more interesting than just patrolling.

    I don’t know what BYU is currently doing, but I imagine that these programs and educational outreach for the safety of their students is still in effect. I felt like I got a lot of practical, helpful information for a lot of different scenarios and resources for where to turn if I found myself in a bad situation.

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