October 3, 2014

President McKinney Gives Update from Committee Examining Sexual Assault Prevention

VSU President William J. McKinney is joined by members of the President's Special Committee on the Prevention of Sexual Assault during a press conference on Oct. 1, in the University Center.

VALDOSTA -- Valdosta State University President William J. McKinney held a press conference Oct. 1, to update the progress of the President’s Special Committee on the Prevention of Sexual Assault.
McKinney stated that the special committee was formed in May with the charge to assess the university’s strengths and weaknesses in the area of sexual assault prevention. The committee will examine ways VSU can make improvements in various areas to include, but not limited to, law enforcement, student development, policy, student health care, counseling, and residence life.
“You cannot learn effectively in an environment where you are concerned about your safety, and the safety of all of our students is a top priority,” said McKinney.
McKinney explained the committee's formation works toward fulfilling an obligation that the university has to provide a safe environment for all students.
“One instance is one too many on any college campus,” said McKinney, who noted that 68 percent of VSU’s enrollment is female. “We have an obligation, and Valdosta State will lead when it comes to fulfilling that obligation.”
Committee members have been working to determine what initiatives and programs are currently in place in regards to sexual assault prevention and awareness.
“There are a lot of great initiatives that have been maintained on campus and we have tried to target some of those initiatives to see what is really happening on campus,” said Dr. Tricia Hale, director of VSU’s Counseling Center and chair of the special committee. "We are looking at different programming elements, current trainings that are on campus, other campuses, and best practices to evaluate these programs and the climate of the university as a whole. We are also looking at how we can support the victims."
Sexual prevention and awareness programs currently in place include Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) classes, training sessions for faculty and staff, and starting this month the “NO MORE” campaign will be launched by student organizations.
The NO MORE initiative, which began in 2009, is a national movement that works to bring greater awareness and action to end domestic violence and sexual assault.
“Here at VSU, NO MORE is taking hold within the best of all possible places, which is within our student organizations,” said McKinney. “We should never underestimate the ability of our students to be leaders and take responsibility for their actions. We as administrators are always here to support and aid those students who are looking to do the right thing.”
The committee plans to provide McKinney with initial recommendations within the next few days. The final report is scheduled to be completed by May 2015.

 President’s Special Committee on the Prevention of Sexual Assault

  • Dr. Tricia Hale (committee chair), Counseling Center
  • Dr. Maggie Viverette, Office of Social Equity
  • Major Ann Farmer, University Police
  • Holly Wright, Health Promotions and Counseling Center
  • Dustin Abshire, Housing and Residence Life
  • Courtney Wilkes, Finance and Administration
  • Dr. Fred Knowles, Criminal Justice
  • Dr. Stephanie D. Hinnershitz, History
  • Dr. Neena Banerjee, Political Science and Public Administration   
  • Dr. Lorna L. Alvarez, Criminal Justice

Additional sexual assault awareness and prevention initiatives at VSU

Jeans for Justice: During Parent’s Weekend, which is normally held during September, VSU’s office of Student Life facilitates the Jeans 4 Justice event, which allows students and parents to decorate jeans and assemble care packages for The Haven. During National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, activities are scheduled that raise awareness about sexual violence and help educate communities and individuals about prevention. In the past, VSU has invited a sexual assault survivor to be a guest speaker. 

RAD and SAFE Classes: Female students are able to participate in the Rape Aggression Defense System (RAD) scheduled throughout the year. The RAD system is the largest women's self-defense network in the U.S., with an initial focus on education and awareness, prevention, risk reduction, and avoidance of assault and rape. In addition, the Self-Defense Awareness and Formularization Exchange (SAFE) course is a shortened version of RAD course offered on campus.

Educational Materials on Sexual Assault Prevention: Facilitated by University Police, handouts are distributed to students with information related to sexual assault prevention and how students can help other students in need.

The Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Website and Task Force: A website listed under Health Promotions and Counseling contains statistics, information, and resources on how to report a sexual assault or refer someone who has been sexually assaulted.

• “NO MORE” Campaign facilitated by VSU student organizations: Scheduled for the last week of October, NO MORE is a new unifying symbol designed to galvanize a greater awareness and action to end domestic violence and sexual assault. Supported by major organizations working to address these urgent issues, NO MORE is gaining support nationally, sparking new conversations about these problems and moving this cause higher on the public agenda. NO MORE calls on individuals to work together to end the silence and speak out against the violence experienced by people of all genders, races and ethnicities, and age groups.

Sexual Assault Prevention Training for Students, Faculty, Staff and Administrators: Facilitated by Dr. Maggie Viverette, director of the Office of Social Equity, training sessions are scheduled throughout the year including classes specifically addressing sexual assault prevention.

Revision of the NCAA Good Sportsmanship Statement: Facilitated by the Athletic Department, the word “sexual” has been added to the NCAA Good Sportsmanship Statement that is read before every VSU athletic event and during half-time. The revised statement now includes: “…profanity, racial, sexual and other intimidating statements will not be tolerated.”

Sexual Assault Training for Student Affairs and Community Members: The VSU Counseling Center hosted a workshop for Student Affairs employees that included speakers from University Police, the District Attorney’s office, and The Haven. In addition, Sherolyn Hopkins, assistant dean of students and Dr. Maggie Viverette, director of VSU’s Social Equity discussed best practices on how sexual assault complaints and victims are processed through various age