Step Up! Griffs peer educators speak out for sexual assault awareness

by Nicole Masaki

Features Contributor

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which is a key month for the Step Up! Griffs peer educators and their activities. The group is running a program called “Embrace Your Voice” where students have the opportunity to write messages of support and solidarity for survivors of sexual assault. They will also be in the library throughout the month with resources, flyers, and infographics. Make sure to stop by and pick up a teal ribbon for support!

The Step Up! Griffs peer educator program was started in Feb. 2016 with two main programs: The Escalation Workshop from OneLove and Bystander Intervention Training. Both aimed at educating students about issues related to dating violence and college students. The escalation training is a brief workshop that consists of a 45 minute film and a 35 minute discussion afterwards. The film portrays a couple in a relationship that starts out sudden and quickly becomes unhealthy and abusive. The discussion is aimed to recognize signs of unhealthy relationships, how to help a friend, and campus resources available to students. Bystander Intervention Training is given to all new students in the fall semester. This is aimed toward consent, information about sexual assault at Canisius, and also discusses resources available to students.

These programs are run by current student peer educators who chose to receive training to facilitate them. Most peer educators are trained in both, but it is not mandatory. When asked why they joined the peer educator program, Shane Moran ‘19, Vivian Mroz ‘19, and Genesis Moreira ‘19 echoed how this was a topic they were passionate about.

“Spreading the message that Sexual Assault is prevalent on campuses and that students have a voice to end it is powerful,” said Mroz. Moran spoke on the impact he felt while giving presentations, adding, “Even if Step Up! Griffs prevents one sexual assault or rape, any amount of time spent in presenting workshops or planning events is worth it.”  This sentiment was also felt by Moreira who mentioned knowing victims of sexual assault and domestic violence “I know someone who has gone through sexual/domestic violence,” she said. “I want to let the students know that they are not alone, and that we are here to help them.”

In addition to these two larger programs, the Peer Educator program also runs a variety of tabling events throughout the year for Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, as well as various other times throughout the year. One of these was the “Stick It to Love” campaign, primarily run by Mroz during February, for Valentine’s Day. This tabling event had students write things on sticky notes that applied to #ThatsLove or #ThatsNotLove. “I wanted to bring students awareness to sexual assault and how it is a prevalent thing on every campus. To do this, a simple way was to see how people see love,” said Mroz. “By doing this in a creative fashion, I noticed people had so many views of what love was and was not. This project I feel has started the conversation about it just by the use of sticky notes and a marker.” Other programs include the Clothesline Project, where students could anonymously create t-shirts  about their experiences with various forms of sexual assault and dating violence. This was peer educator Lindsey Bradley’s ‘18 favorite project that the group has done. “The finished products were able to be in central locations on campus and they sent a strong message. They were color-coded based on the issue to relay from the artist to the viewer.”

As a senior at Canisius, I’ve been with the peer educator program since the beginning (almost 2.5 years). It has been an amazing opportunity to connect with students and make an impact on their college careers. My favorite project was the Clothesline Project because it made a huge visual message to students and also gave a chance for survivors to share their story and really give them power. I’ve also loved running the Escalation Workshops because they send such a powerful message and I get to see how it impacts people firsthand.

 

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