By Sophie Sutherland
– This week is Sexual Violence Awareness Week at Amsterdam University College, but efforts in the area are not limited to this week alone. In the months leading up to now, the student life officer, Lydia Roberts, and her graduate assistant, Claudia Dictus, have developed and held workshops on sexual violence with different parts of the student body. Roberts explained that the workshops began because they saw a gap. “Nothing had been developed here and it was something we could easily [do], and we thought this was a good place to start off and offer some form of training,” she said.
The workshops touched upon a variety of issues relating to sexual violence: what sexual violence is, what it means, what consent and boundaries are and how these tie into the AUC context. They also “outline the emergency and nonemergency protocols for responding to not only instances of sexual assault but also to disclosure,” said Roberts. This is particularly important for the Resident Assistants (RA’s) and Peer Supporters, who are student and dorm advisers, and the tutors, who can provide guidance.
After the workshops had been held with the RA’s, Peer Supporters and tutors, Roberts attended an event at UvA where they planned to hold similar workshops with their fraternities. Roberts then decided to spread the workshops to AUC committees. As well as discussing sexual violence, the workshops draw on elements of active listening, i.e. how to be equipped to deal with sensitive information being disclosed to you.
Roberts specified that there are three vital components to consider when someone you know is experiencing sexual violence: look, listen, and link. Look means to observe whether the person is in immediate harm or danger. Listen means to be considerate, actively listen, and to validate their feelings. “Let them choose the pace of talking and what they want to talk about,” said Roberts. Lastly, link means to offer them pathways for support, showing which support services are available to them, but allowing them to choose. Roberts added that it is up to the person themselves to reach out to someone, whoever this person may be. Roberts also commented that many people think going to the police is their only option, but this is not the case. “It really depends on the individual person and only they can make that decision,” said Roberts.
Sexual violence is a confrontational issue to deal with, especially in terms of self-acceptance. “It’s important for a survivor to remember, I think, that what they’ve experienced up to that point isn’t their fault,” said Roberts. “They’re not to blame and they should be reassured about that a million times.” In her workshops, she also repeats the phrase, “You are not a survivor, you are a warrior.”
Grace John, a second-year Science major and a board member of AUC’s Student Association (AUCSA), believes that the workshops were useful on both a personal and professional level as it prepared her for AUCSA events and how to react if such a situation occurs. She thinks that the workshops should be given annually to every AUCSA board and event-hosting committee, and that they should also be offered to members of the general public.
Together with Dictus , Roberts is currently working hard to develop the sexual violence policies and improve awareness at AUC. Roberts also says she has connected more with students through giving the workshops and has developed good relationships with them in discussing such a sensitive topic. She wants everyone to know that, “I’m someone they can come talk to about things such as this.”
This week’s Sexual Violence Awareness Week is run by AUC’s Wellbeing Team and ASAP (AUC’s Program Against Sexual Violence)
Any students interested in the sexual violence workshops at AUC can reach out to Lydia Roberts (email@example.com), or her Graduate Assistant Claudia Dictus (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Sexual Assault Center (SAC) in Amsterdam can be reached 24/7 via 0800-0188.