When Gloria Tan first saw the announcement for AU’s Step Up peer educator group, she was skeptical.
“To be honest, initially I thought it was kind of cliché, quite lame. A student leadership group reaching out through spam email,” she explained. “But when I read up more about it and attended the training to see what it was about, I understood.”
In that understanding, Tan joined the ten-member student group that will facilitate on-campus bystander intervention training, which focuses on ways to intervene when witnessing potentially dangerous behavior. Student organizations from fraternities and sororities to Student Government and residence hall floors can request these trainings.
The new Step Up group comes as part of increased efforts and resources around preventing sexual assault and relationship violence on campus.
“It’s not just something you put on your résumé,” said Tan, a junior in the School of International Service. “It’s something that can change campus life, that can influence the choices people make when they are in college, which are pretty formative years.”
Numerous students felt just as strongly about the group’s purpose, as 30 applicants vied for the ten spots—which are all unpaid, volunteer positions.
Caring & Confidential
AU’s coordinator for victim advocacy services Sara Yzaguirre oversees the group. New to the university herself, she’s impressed and thrilled by the response. “It’s been really great to see how active students are here about a variety of topics that are important to them,” she said. “There’s always a demonstration or tabling about various issues. It’s very apparent how passionate the students are, which I like.”
In her recently created role, Yzaguirre works alongside sexual assault prevention coordinator Daniel Rappaport in the university’s Wellness Center. He sees the student-led group as part of a larger, expanding partnership around the issue.
“It’s been a community effort,” he said. “Collaboration makes it happen, as far as bystander intervention and prevention of gender violence. It has to be everyone, when we’re talking about shifting a climate and a culture. Everyone has to play a role.”
Together in their professional roles, Rappaport and Yzaguirre form what is now called AU’s Office of Advocacy Services for Interpersonal and Sexual Violence, or OASIS—a part of the Wellness Center in McCabe Hall. Students can reach out to them for confidential conversations about trauma that they or someone they know may have experienced.
“Sometimes you need somebody to tell you what to do. Sometimes you need somebody to guide you. They can do both,” Tan explained of the pair. “They can tell you where to go. They can introduce a different perspective, and they’re not going to tell anyone unless you’re comfortable with it…They’re great.”
Rappaport echoes her words, encouraging students in need to get in touch through any method, whether in an email, phone call, or office visit. “There is no question too big or too small. There’s no concern that’s unworthy or something we won’t be able to help them with,” he said. “It’s our job to provide support, and if we can’t provide it directly, we’ll find someone who can. As confidential resources, we do that without including anyone else, unless they want those others included.”
Whether in the Step Up peer educators, OASIS, or resources like the Counseling Center, AU is committed to keeping the campus community safe as well as informed on how to keep one another safe. Administrators, students, and faculty in the university’s Sexual Assault Working Group will continue to explore new avenues to address this issue affecting campuses nationwide.
For Rappaport, that’s a good thing.
“The university is incredibly invested, supportive, and really playing a role. It’s not that they just gave us a thumbs up. Everyone from the top down has been a part of the planning, creation, and delivery of many components of Step Up,” he said. “In terms of a unified front that can convey this is a value of our community, our university has done that really well.”
As marketing coordinator for the Step Up peer educators, Tan counts herself as part of that unified front. She knows she’s come a long way from that skeptical moment of first seeing the student group’s announcement, and that’s made all the difference in her time at AU.
“Even though I thought it was lame or cliché, it still made me stop long enough to consider clicking that link and see what the website said. That moment that gave me pause led to all of this,” she said. “I’m glad.”