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Called out by Washington, ASU organizes to curb sexual violence

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TEMPE – Pacing across the stage, Jackson Katz challenges the views of approximately 500 Arizona State University students and community members on who is responsible for preventing sexual violence.

“These are not just women issues that a few good men help with,” said Katz, a gender violence prevention expert and author on the subject. “I’m arguing these are men’s issues.”

Arizona State University hired Katz to speak at the September event hosted by Changemaker Central, a student initiative for social change. The night ended with student club leaders inviting student audience members to interact with them and learn how clubs were preventing sexual assault and harassment.

It’s one of many steps ASU has taken to strengthen its efforts to raise awareness about sexual violence.

ASU was the only Arizona school on a list of 55 under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for how they have handled sexual violence and harassment allegations.

In mid-September, President Barack Obama announced a program dubbed It’s On Us to combat sexual violence on campuses.

At the beginning of this school year, President Michael M. Crow notified the ASU community by email that a new Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force will review all policies, procedures and programmatic efforts involving sexual violence.

The task force will send a report to Crow at the end of October, a quick but necessary deadline, said Aaron Krasnow, assistant vice president and director of ASU counseling and member of the task force.

“This is a long-standing social problem that requires a complex, community-based solution,” Krasnow said. “All of us are responsible in ensuring that no student ever experiences sexual violence.”

ASU is laying plans to require all 80,000-plus students to take an online course called Consent and Respect. The module will focus on sexual violence awareness, prevention and intervention. The task force is still reviewing the content.

The online module provides insight about bystander intervention training, but ASU also has in-person training course, called Step Up, that has been around for several years. Krasnow said the university would look into scaling up the in-person training if more students show interest.

ASU also has been working more with student organizations whose mission involves preventing sexual violence, he said.

“We have amazing student organizations that have already taken it upon themselves through passion and interest to prevent sexual violence and ensure a respectful community,” Krasnow said. “I’m very proud of the students here at ASU who have, prior to the call from the president of the United States, who have decided it is on us.”

Task force members are having conversations with the club leaders about joining under the banner Sun Devil Movement of Violence Prevention. One of them is the Graduate and Professional Student Association, or GPSA.

Megan Fisk, immediate past president of GPSA and a Ph.D. communications student, is on two of the subcommittees on the current task force. She was also at Katz’s presentation.

“We all play a role in shaping the culture that we want and a culture that promotes sexual assault or even allows it to take place and the way it’s structured isn’t what we want,” Fisk said.

Northern Arizona University has an online course as well that that started last year for students, said Tom Bauer, director of the university’s Office of Public Affairs. This year it is mandatory for all students.

“A lot of students, especially freshmen, this is their first time away from home, and we feel it’s important message to get out to them that these kind of events can happen and there’s certain steps we can all take to perhaps prevent some tragedy,” Bauer said.

The MyStudentBody Essentials Course has three sections focusing on alcohol, drugs, and sexual violence. It also has a bystander intervention component. The NAU online course has a follow-up assessment that students take 30 days after they completed the course too see if their views have changed at all.

The Oasis Program Against Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence at University of Arizona’s Campus Health Services provides intervention and response services for students, said Megan McKendry, an Oasis violence prevention specialist.

In addition to other long-standing programs, including a bystander intervention program and a “Consent is Sexy” marketing campaign, Oasis partners with The Men’s Project, a year-old program at the Women’s Resource Center that challenges men to think about male culture.

The Oasis and The Men’s Project held an event at which men shared how their views of masculinity impacted their lives. Chris Corces-Zimmerman, a graduate assistant who leads The Men’s Project, said there is a responsibility on men to consider how masculinity and men’s privileges play into sexual assault.

“Then there’s another component that is men that are holding each other accountable and raising the bar, changing the culture around what is acceptable and what is not acceptable especially in terms of sexual assault and relationships in general,” Corces-Zimmerman said.