Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, September 12, 2011

Teach-in to focus on sexual violence after recent assaults

In response to the series of sexual assaults that have taken place near the U-M campus, the Center for the Education of Women (CEW), the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) and the Abuse Hurts Initiative have collaborated to organize a teach-in on sexual assault.


More information

View a live stream of the teach-in.

Click here for a teach-in agenda.

UM Abuse Hurts page on Facebook

Center for the Education of Women

Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center

The daylong event will take place Friday in the Michigan Room of the Michigan League. The U-M community is invited to attend one or all of the sessions.

Additional sponsors for the event are the Women's Studies Department and the Graduate Employees Organization.

The teach-in will address sexual violence from many vantage points, says Sue Kaufmann, associate director for advocacy at CEW.

"At a time when we are experiencing heightened anxiety about a series of sexual assaults near campus, teach-in organizers believe it is important to offer a broad picture of sexual or gender-based violence that encompasses relationships as well as attacks by strangers," Kaufmann says. "Students, faculty and staff will all find sessions during the course of the day to address their interests and concerns."

Topics include personal and community approaches to promoting safety, understanding acquaintance rape, a historical perspective on sexual violence and race, abusive use of digital media, understanding abusive relationships, and respectful decision-making in relationships. Also, the 4 p.m. closing session "is an opportunity for us to come together as a community to think about steps we can take to reduce sexual violence," she says.

Since the sexual assaults began, SAPAC has experienced an increase in inquiries, ranging from students requesting information to calls from concerned parents, says Holly Rider-Milkovich, director of SAPAC. "For some students who have experienced violence in the past, reading about the assaults brought back a negative emotional response," she says. "Also, people want to know what they can do to help."

"I hope participants in the teach-in come away with some tools to help them think about how the choices they make can maximize personal safety for everyone, every day," she says. "There are things we can all do to build a violence-free campus climate."

While recently canvassing off-campus residences with the student-led initiative Beyond the Diag, Rider Milkovich says the students she encountered were aware of the assaults and spoke openly about safety measures they are taking.

"The students were excited to see the university take the initiative for campus safety. There was not an overwhelming sense of fear. Students are informed, conscientious and looking out for each other. That's really encouraging," she said.

The teach-in will allow many key allies to come together to provide the U-M community with the tools they need to stay safe, as well as the information, resources and support necessary to address sexual violence, says Kathleen Donohoe, associate director of HR strategy and planning for University Human Resources.

"Knowing that many students and employees of the university are anxious about their safety because of the recent assaults, we are offering a mix of experiential learning, research-based presentations by faculty and other experts, and media/arts," Donohoe says. 

Personal safety is a foundation on which women and men create successful lives, yet many members of our community struggle with experiences of sexual and partner violence, Kaufmann says.

"The teach-in builds on CEW's counseling and other services and our leadership, with University Human Resources, of the Abuse Hurts campaign," Kaufmann says. "Through multiple means, we provide information and resources women and men need to promote safety in their own lives so they can achieve their goals without being hindered by violence. In addition, we have worked for many years, in collaboration with others, to shape institutional policy on campus and in the community to ensure that survivors get effective help."

Kaufmann says she wishes for the teach-in to inspire new collaborations and more community engagement. "I hope participants will understand that sexual violence and abuse occur in many contexts and are shaped by community norms, and that we have personal and collective opportunities to shape those norms through education, action and holding abusers accountable for their behavior," she says.