Post 2: The Importance Brandeis Places on Bystander Training

There are many types of relationships a student may develop throughout their college career, including with roommates, friends, professors, teaching assistants, themselves, and romantic relationships with others. People in healthy relationships treat each other with respect, feel secure and comfortable with each other, aren’t controlling, abusive, or violent with each other, resolve conflicts satisfactorily, enjoy time spent together, and support one another, among other things.

Brandeis has many resources for students that lay the groundwork for the growth of healthy relationships at the university. There is SSIS, the Student Sexuality Information Service, which leads a mandatory session during orientation to talk about sexual health and appropriate sexual conduct. SSIS holds office hours, information sessions, and workshops promoting sexual health. There is also STAR, Students Talking About Relationships, which provides a face-to-face peer counseling resource for the Brandeis community. All STAR counselors are trained by professionals on topics including general counseling skills, campus resources and procedures, domestic and dating violence, rape crisis and sexual assault, pregnancy options and STD/STIs, alcohol and drugs, eating disorders and body image, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender topics, religion, mental health, and suicide and self-harm. In addition to peer-counseling, STAR hosts events related to mental health, self-care and stress relief.

In addition to STAR and SSIS, there is PARC, the Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center. PARC at Brandeis University is a confidential, student-centered resource serving all members of the Brandeis community who have been impacted by violence. This organization is particularly well-known due to the fact that they post flyers detailing their clubs mission on bathroom stalls all over the school. PARC offers a variety of ways to engage with students with programming focused on both the prevention of and response to violence. One of those methods is bystander training. Whether it is a Greek life or a community service organization, an athletics team or an a capella group, every student involved in student activities must attend a bystander training with PARC. Bystander intervention training is one of the most effective ways to empower students, staff, and faculty to address and prevent harassment on college campuses, and to strategically leverage students as change agents.

With Dinah this summer, I have been developing bystander training through a Jewish lens with the goal of sharing this program with Jewish organizations across the Philadelphia area. The program includes true/false questions about domestic violence, discussing and naming different types of abuse (including physical, sexual, financial, emotional/psychological, verbal, and spiritual/religious), and talking about domestic violence as a learned behavior. Additionally, the program includes talking about domestic violence and the threat it poses to victims in the Jewish community through terminology like Lashon Harah, Agunah, Mesirah, and Shalom Bayit. This bystander training will make all of these communities safer whether they are youth groups, synagogues, overnight camps, or Jewish life clubs at universities.

I feel incredibly lucky to attend a school that prioritizes sexual health, peer counseling, and sexual violence prevention to the extent that Brandeis University does. I have since learned that safer communities are communities that invest in programming in order to educate their constituents and recognize the unique role their identities play in this particular issue.

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