News

Student-formed peer resource groups help promote sexual education and healthy relationships

By Rachel Brustein

This fall, students are taking action to create more support on campus in order for their peers to be properly educated on sexual health, sexual assault and healthy relationships. These courses of action are a response to the needs of students who received little or no support in the past after being sexually assaulted and to help inform students who received inadequate education on consent and sexual health.
SEPIA (Sexual Education Positivity Inclusivity & Activism), a new club on campus, plans to provide “unbiased, medically accurate and inclusive sex education to Goucher and the greater Baltimore community,” said co-President Anna Bloomfield ’18. Last semester, Bloomfield and other students put out a survey to find out what students needed in terms of sex ed. and found out there was a general lack of knowledge among students on everything from proper STI protection to contraception.
The club plans to do lectures and activities on consent, menstruation, being a supportive partner, bondage and discipline/domination and submission/sadism and masochism (BDSM) and other topics. They aim to avoid a club atmosphere where the same people come every week by offering a variety of workshops for students attend when they feel a topic applies to them.
“We’re trying to get as many voices as possible because in the world of sexology, it’s very heteronormative and white and cis,” Bloomfield said.
Co-Presidents Blake Flournoy ‘18 and Bloomfield recognize that they are not teachers and want to have open forums where students can discuss and ask questions about these topics. In order to be comprehensive and meet needs of all students, SEPIA plans to bring in speakers from off-campus and partner with other clubs.
A club that SEPIA wants to partner with is Men Of Strength, or MOST, lead by Jeremy Hardy ’17. Hardy and Clayton Reynolds ’18 attended a training workshop in DC on healthy masculinity with an organization called Men Can Stop Rape. Healthy masculinity does not have one specific definition but is a concept that challenges the traditional standards under which boys and men are socialized. After the training workshop, Hardy, who is on the soccer team, did a presentation on healthy masculinity for male athletes.
“My primary function is…to help guys sort things out for themselves about their own constructions of masculinities and how they relate to others…and how they treat and talk to [and] about women,” Hardy said. He hopes to change policies on campus so that the way sexual assault is reported is less daunting for the survivor and “make the college actually care about expelling rapists.” The step he is taking in this process is enabling “an educational [and] cultural shift in men at Goucher.” Hardy acknowledged that this framework is very heterosexual, though masculinity construction affects all men.
A third club that is a resource on campus is FRESHR (For Real Education about Sexy Healthy Relationships). “There wasn’t really a centralized place” to talk about sexual assault and healthy relationships, said Talya Stern ’17, President and founder of the club. In the past, several groups organized different events and discussions around this issue. “The intention behind it is just to create a sustainable place for students to interact,” Stern said.
She continued, “I think there’s a misconception that clubs need to be the ones that lead events, when in reality, it’s students who need to be at events, especially in something like this when you’re really trying to make a culture change, rather than just create a club.” FRESHR is here to serve as a resource and tool for students who want funding or help planning an event relating to sexual assault awareness.
Stern plans to lead a group to rewrite the Sexual Misconduct Policy. “Up until now it’s [Sexual Misconduct Policy] been driven by faculty, and my hope is to do it driven by students, so we can actually bring up concerns that students would have,” Stern said.
In addition to these three clubs, an organization called Team One Love is training students to be peer resources on relationship violence.
Roshelle Kades, Assistant Director for Student Outreach, connects students to resources for a variety of issues, including sexual assault and relationship violence. Her job entails “working with students and acting as a connector [and] supporting students who have ideas of education,” Kades said.
Kades is also involved with the new First Year Experience program and is helping the First Year Mentors plan a lesson and facilitate a discussion about relationships in college. This will address healthy and unhealthy relationships, boundaries, and communication.
Peer listeners, another resource on campus, are students who are on call every night from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. whom students can call and then meet with in person. Their phone number is 443-632-7799. Peer Listeners and professionals in the health center, if informed of sexual assault, report it anonymously to the Clery Report (crime statistics). Confidential reporters are the counselors and Chaplain Cynthia Terry and Rabbi Josh Snyder because they are clergy.
“Peers are often a really good starting place when somebody’s not sure what they think about something,” Terry said on discussing sexual assault. Though peers are not professionals, there are advantages and disadvantages for both; talking to a peer “doesn’t have to feel formal,” Terry said. “For some, talking to a friend or a peer feels like an easier way to start exploring that,” she added.
This network of peer resources on campus hopes to push a cultural shift in the way the college talks about and handles sexual assault and sex education.

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