June 18, 2024

After last year’s serge in reported sexual assaults on campus, there have been many events and educational discussions on the topic. Many sports teams have become extremely proactive in addressing this issue with their members.
Last fall when the campus community was reeling, Natalie Koukis, coach of men’s and women’s swimming and diving decided enough was enough.
“Last year when the news of several sexual assaults broke, we felt it was appropriate to address with both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving team,” said Koukis. “Working closely with Dr. Wagner in sociology we spearheaded a program [Pledge Against Violence] that involved discussion, education, small group discussions and presentations, and eventually a PSA and pledge taken by every member of the team.”
Koukis continued, “This pledge has now been passed on to other athletic teams and they are going through the same process we went through last year.  I think it is important to continue this very real conversation and get as many people involved as possible.”
That they have. Teaming with Brooke Wagner, professor of Sociology, the program has expanded this year.
“Though no other teams completed the program last year, this year the program took off with 5 Wittenberg teams already completing it and working on their own unique PSA,” said Wagner. “We modified the program this year to incorporate some of the information presented by Dr. Alan Berkowitz during his campus visit at the end of October, like bystander intervention.”
Wagner was quick to add, “However, this program is not only about sexual assault prevention. Our goal has shifted to help students both identify all types of potentially harmful situations, from hate slurs to intimate partner violence, and to equip students with the skills to successfully intervene when needed.”
In addition, Krystal Reeb with the office of Student Development, worked closely with Donna Picklesimer the Title IX coordinator for Wittenberg, to develop a streamlined educational program for campus.
“It became evident education was occurring on campus regarding sexual harassment and misconduct, but we wanted to make sure all students were receiving an accurate message,” said Reeb. “Our goal was to find out what type of education is happening on campus; who are we educating; and what is the message they are receiving. Throughout this process we determined what constituents should be addressed and through what medium. For example, some groups need to learn about bystander intervention while other students, such as first-year students, need to learn the basics including what University policy is and what their resources are for assistance if needed.”
Reeb continued, “ By splitting up the constituents into subcommittees and utilizing student voice, we are now better able to track the conversation on campus and make sure students who are affected my sexual conduct on campus know where to get support or find support for a friend.  My hope is for this type of education and conversation to change the campus community into one that does not tolerate sexual harassment or misconduct, and instead, holds its peers accountable by stepping in or finding support for each other.”
Picklesimer added “The actual programs will vary but the underlying message of “respect” and “consent” will be consistent throughout.”
As for continued education, Reeb said that each student organization was encouraged to have some sort of sexual assault education whether it be “through speakers, articles, small group discussions, or more.” Reeb also said that the office of student development would be willing to assist in any way possible in facilitating these measures.
In addition to Wagner’s program, sports teams are also bringing in other professionals to help boost education among their players. Maigan Larsen, Assistant Athletic Director for External Affairs has been charged with the task of enrolling more sports teams into Pledge Against Violence.
“Brooke added to the program this semester the topic of bystander awareness, and it has been a great addition to the education and prevention of all types of violence, including sexual assault,” said Larsen. “To date this year, we have introduced the program to the following six teams that are in their off-season: Softball, Baseball, Men’s Tennis, Women’s Tennis, Men’s Lacrosse, and Women’s Lacrosse.  We expect to roll it out to all 23 by the fall of 2014.”

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