Penn is appointing Penn Violence Prevention Interim Director Malik Washington as the program's new director. The hiring comes after a seven-month search to fill the spot left open by previous PVP Director Jessica Mertz, who left Penn in May 2019.
Washington has served as PVP associate director since 2016 and was named interim director after Mertz's departure. At PVP, he has specifically worked with students in fraternities and with male athletes. He advises the student group Men Against Rape & Sexual Assault and created the Men & Masculinities summit, which will be held for the third time this February.
"I have enjoyed the energy and passion of our students. And the issues they care about, and advocate for, keep me motivated that it is possible for us to effect some kind of change," he said.
In his new position, Washington said he hopes to educate students on supporting survivors, especially those who do not look like the stereotypical survivor.
"We have had trouble creating [a trusted environment] for men and for transgender, queer, non-binary students," he said. He added that one of his goals is "getting men to a space where they feel comfortable to say that they have experienced violence."
Washington arrived on Penn's campus as PVP expanded its staff shortly after the 2015 Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. The AAU survey, which takes place every four years, reports on unwanted sexual misconduct on the campuses of participating universities, including Penn.
In light of the 2019 AAU survey results, Washington is now tasked with finding two new staff members at PVP. He said he also plans to find a space on Locust Walk as a permanent location for PVP and to push for an Office of Student Conduct staffer who oversees restorative justice programs.
Earlier this semester, PVP relocated from Locust Walk to an office on the mezzanine level of 3535 Market St., in the same building where Student Health Service is located. Student leaders expressed frustration over this move and said they felt that PVP being further from campus would hinder their advocacy efforts.
Washington said he has advocated for Penn to hire an associate director of restorative practices in the OSC and is excited to see how restorative practices will affect Penn's campus and PVP's efforts.
"There is a lot of desire to address different ways of harm," he said. "Being able to meet that and change narratives of what accountability looks like is really important to our primary prevention."
Other plans include preparing members of the Penn community for when someone discloses to them about their assault, Washington said. He added that he wants to expand peer education models such as Penn Anti-Violence Educator's bystander intervention initiative and MARS' masculinity and consent workshops.
Washington graduated from Howard University in 2010, after which he worked at nonprofits in Washington, D.C. for a few years. He taught middle and high schoolers about violence prevention and healthy relationships, and he also became the executive director of The William Kellibrew Foundation, a national organization that focuses on sexual assault, domestic violence, and trauma, according to its website.