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Credit: Luke Chen

There’s a new way to get involved in the fight against sexual violence on campus.

This fall will welcome the Penn Anti-Violence Educators to campus — a new program slated to lead the fight against sexual and relationship violence at Penn.

Created through a collaboration between Director of Student Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Jessica Mertz, the Undergraduate Assembly, Penn Women’s Center, 1 in 4 and Abuse and Sexual Prevention, the program will select and train five to 10 passionate and confident students to run workshops focusing on intervention strategies, Mertz said.

Workshops will be run by a group of students that is “ideally made up of a lot of diverse voices around campus — not just folks who have already been working on these issues in the past,” Mertz added.

Selected students will co-facilitate two to three workshops a month in the coming semesters that focus on bystander intervention and the role that every student plays in preventing sexual violence and relationship violence on campus. The student group will be made up of paid volunteers that will be compensated $15 per hour for workshops and training, and a one-year commitment is required.

To help determine the success of each PAVE workshop, “We won’t just be asking people to assess the program and whether they liked it,” Mertz said. “We’ll be doing pre- and post-tests where we’ll be measuring if there has been any change in their knowledge or their ideas.”

Undergraduate Assembly members Travis Shingledecker and Jane Meyer worked closely with collaborators to decide on a peer-led program because they believe that student educators will be able to connect with their peers in a way that will promote dialogue and create a comfortable environment, they said.

PAVE will teach different intervention strategies with students, such as how to intervene when they see a threat of sexual assault, as well as what to do if a friend confides that they have been sexually assaulted.

“Students to a certain extent want to feel empowered in a real situation. They want to walk away from a training session with skills they can use in the real world,” Meyer said.

Despite researching pre-existing programs that focus on bystander intervention, collaborators of the program ultimately decided to develop their own curriculum in order to tailor the workshops to Penn’s culture and resources.

Meyer added that hearing about some of her peers’ experiences with sexual assault at Penn was part of the reason that this issue is so important to her.

“Hearing these anecdotes and how they could have been helped in a situation, or how they didn’t know which resources to access, made it a priority even more so in terms of something that I wanted to work on,” Meyer said.

The official application deadline was Monday, but Mertz encourages any students interested in getting involved to reach out for more information.

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