Peer educators participate in Sexual Violence Prevention Training

Amelia Leach, Campus Life Reporter

On Feb. 4, Sexual Violence Prevention (SVP) leadership members, representatives from Whitman Greek Life organizations (excluding Phi Delta Theta and Tau Kappa Epsilon) and Residence Life participated in a Sexual Violence Prevention Training. 

The Recognize Violence, Change Culture (RVCC) team, invited by the Office of the Dean of Students and the Counseling Center, led an interactive workshop about promoting sexual violence prevention on campus. The training was centered around bystander intervention, the basics and nuances of consent and survivor support, while emphasizing intersectionality, specifically how intersecting identities can bring up a lot of barriers to reporting.

“Our integration of intersectional frameworks and cultural humility has been something a lot of folks in different areas doing violence prevention work have come to us for because there has been a lack of that within violence prevention work of being able to address marginalized communities,” RVCC co-founder Esmy Hurtado said.

In addition to intersectionality, something that sets RVCC apart from other violence prevention programs is that they help student-led programs organize themselves to make the most change.

SVP is a student run organization at Whitman College that does educational work around sexual violence prevention, provides confidential survivor support resources for students and does community work around sex positivity.

Senior SVP member Sophie Liebsohn had been advocating for this training for a long time.

“I personally believe that student activism is the most effective way to educate, but professional training is important,” Liebsohn said.

Hurtado feels the same way.

“When it comes to doing violence prevention, ensuring that the movements in those spaces are student-led is essential because the studies have shown that peer-educating is what works. Through our experience, that is what creates an environment of safety and accountability within college campuses,” Hurtado said.

Senior SVP member Lucien Rochelois appreciated how young people led the training.

“If the people you’re watching are like 40 then you’re not gonna be as receptive to it as a 20-year-old. They [the speakers] were in college four years ago, so they know exactly what’s going on,” Rochelois said.

Hurtado and co-founder Shelley Magallanes met in college. The pair saw the need for change in sexual violence prevention programs, so they created their nonprofit from the ground up.

“From working with different colleges, we realized there are many gaps and barriers that folks in prevention areas encounter. There’s a lack of funding, educational support, time and resources,” Hurtado said. “Oftentimes, prevention individuals are not only doing the education aspect but [also] the programming — creating those safe spaces and also doing advocacy. They’re providing support to survivors who have experienced sexual violence or other forms of discrimination.”

Whitman’s SVP leadership members do around 10 to 20 hours of volunteer work a week. SVP used to be a paid position until a conversation arose about whether or not they needed to be mandated reporters if they were paid. Since being non-mandated reporters is crucial to their job, they were classified as volunteers. Since all SVP volunteers have financial responsibilities, it’s often difficult to balance SVP duties while maintaining personal finances. 

Sophomore SVP member Kiana Potter says they are hoping to get a budget for some kind of payment for the work that they do.

“This is important enough that we’re going to do it whether we’re paid or not, but it feels like that’s almost been taken advantage of in a sort because people have realized we’ll do it anyway,” Potter said.

SVP cares deeply about the issue of sexual violence, and their passion is what makes them work so hard. Having such a personal connection to the job is difficult at times, though. In a position where so many people are relying on you for support, it’s tricky to find the balance of supporting yourself along with others.

“It’s this weird dichotomy because part of our job is to teach people how to enforce their own boundaries, but I don’t know a single person who hasn’t compromised a boundary in order to help another person,” Liebsohn said.

Boundaries are a huge theme in RVCC presentations.

“RVCC has helped me in learning my own boundaries, learning what I want in relationships and what I want out of the world. It’s helped me feel like I have more personal power to use my own skills and make change happen,” Magallanes said.

Everyone who participated in the Sexual Violence Prevention Training was grateful to have RVCC on campus. 

In Reid on Feb. 23, SVP is hosting a kick-off event with live music. In between sets, questions about sex or consent will be answered.