Sexual being a big problem despite being looked down

Sexual
violence remains a serious problem in universities around the country. In one
study, more than 23% of female university students said they had experienced
unwanted sexual contact in the United States 1. Part of the reason why sexual
violence continues being a big problem despite  being looked down upon are
the myths about sexual violence that are entwined in the society itself;
however, changing social norms is difficult. There are a lot of myths and
behaviors that allow sexual violence to endure in our communities. Stopping
sexual violence means changing the social norms by having people recognize
where and when sexual violence starts and how to stop it. The ideal approach
will have three aspects: 1) training the whole population in the common myths
of sexual violence, 2) having media that keeps the population aware of the
sexual violence in the immediate area, and most importantly, 3) having an
influential population that will have more intense training in order to act as
role models and proactively intervene to prevent such acts. When these three
things are done in combination, they hit all major factors in social ecological
model to solve sexual violence. However, the best approach of stopping sexual
violence is through bystander intervention ? by informing a few people how to
properly address root causes of sexual violence and having them act as a role
model for the remaining area. One example of this was shown by Ann Coker and
her colleagues where they were able to lower the amount of sexual violence in
high schools in Kentucky by training popular opinion leaders more intensely to
act as role models and active bystanders 2. These popular opinion leaders
were not the most popular students in the high school, rather they were a
social leader in each subgroup 3. By training these leaders, their knowledge
can diffuse through their individual subgroup while also acting as role models.
This type of bystander intervention, where a popular opinion leader is used,
would work perfectly in colleges where the graduate students can fill this
role.  They can become the popular opinion leaders and set an example, and
inform students when they are contributing to the norms in sexual violence.

The
bystander approach has been used in numerous studies 4. A bystander is a
third party person who, by action or presence, helps to deter a problem whiles
its developing or even in progress 5. Communities without members who use
informal social control to help deter perpetrators have higher rates of sexual
violence 6. Moreover, areas that increase the amount of bystanders have a
decrease in sexual violence 7. Bystander intervention has a double effect
when leaders in the communities take the role as an active bystander because
not only are they reducing instances of sexual violence, but according to the Diffusion
of innovation theory by Everett Rogers, their knowledge will be diffused
throughout the population 8. In colleges, graduate students are often seen as
the leaders of the communities, making them a prime target to help with
bystander intervention. Whether it is in the classroom or outside, graduate
students can help set the example, and because of their position, they are
natural leaders. Moreover, unlike high school, the student subgroups tend to be
smaller due to the vast number of classes and the size of the school.
Therefore, simply repeating Coker’s study where they used the “leader” of each
subgroup would not work without teaching a large portion of the school.
 Graduate students on the other hand have large enough group discussions
to make it so a large body does not have to be trained and small enough so that
a significant portion of the population is in direct contact with them. In
University of California, Berkeley for example, around 28% of the population
are graduate students, so even if only half are Teaching Assistants(TA) for a
specific semester, they will still be in the range of 12 – 15%  of the
student population influencing leaders presented by Coker 2. So simply put,
given the natural position graduate students are in, and the exposing time they
have in the school community, they make perfect examples for bystander
intervention and can decrease sexual violence overtime.

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The
most effective use of bystander intervention is when a group of the population
is trained intensively about common myths of sexual violence, to distinguish
early signs of an escalating situation, and how to de-escalate it. That
knowledge of the population is diffused throughout the entire community.
 This means every graduate student planning to become a TA should receive
take part in a workshop hosted by a specialist in sexual violence every year.
This workshop would involve many components about sexual violence. First, the
training would have to focus on the facts about sexual violence to relay the
issue as being very serious and to quickly dispel any myths that lead to
cultural norms.  For example, people need to understand that about one out
of five females in the university will experience unwanted sexual violence.
These facts should help graduate students understand the seriousness of the
issue so that they may be more involved. Then, the workshop would need to come
up with a more in-depth analysis on victimization, perpetration, and prosocial
behaviors that they may be able to recognize in their everyday life. Finally,
after the students have been taught to identify these signs, the graduate
students should be able to address them by using the “three Ds”. The first “D”
is direct: this involves directly helping a person who may be vulnerable to
sexual violence. For example, if you see a woman’s drink getting spiked you
should intervene directly and inform the woman of what has happened. The next
“D” in bystander approach is delegate: where a bystander should contact the
police if they see an escalating situation. The final “D” would be distract:
which involves direct intervention in a situation that may lead to violence by
distracting the perpetrators. For example, if a man and a woman are getting
into a fight and you ask them for the time. After learning how to contribute to
be an active bystander, graduate students can greatly diminish the acts of
sexual violence within their sub groups, which will ultimately contribute to
changing the cultural norms within our communities. This workshop should be
repeated every year and should be constantly improving its course to better
teach graduate students how to be an active bystander. Although the main focus
should be on the graduate students, supplementing the bystander approach with
other approaches may have a synergistic effect 10. For example, all students
should receive some form of individual training, whether it is online or in a
small class, which will allow the issue to be taken more seriously. Next,
placing maps over the school where a green dot can be placed every time there
is a bystander intervention may help in the community level by using the maps
as media for the intervention. Graduate students are perfect to take on these leadership
roles, and by implementing these practices within the school there would be a
decrease in the amount of sexual violence on campus.