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Seeking to prevent sexual violence by informing students on how to become positive bystanders, the JustAsk campaign launched through the Sexual Violence Prevention Project will begin this week on Oct. 5.

Kicking off the project will be the JustAsk campaign which will take place in front of the fall fountain from noon to 3 p.m. on Oct. 5. Here students will receive information about safe and effective methods for positive bystander intervention and will be able to sign up for the empowered bystander training session sponsored by the university. The campaign will continue on the Downtown and East Campuses on Friday, Oct. 7 from noon to 3 p.m.  

The bystander training program, which is the highlight of the Sexual Violence Prevention Project, is a voluntary training session. It lasts 90 minutes and will be offered six times between October 6 and November 16. Each session aims to teach 60-90 students; the program’s goal is to reach 25% of the student population, approximately 4,500 students, during the fall semester.

Students attending this session can expect to be broken into groups of roughly 30 people. According to Chantelle Cleary, the Title IX coordinator, the smaller groups are necessary because the training is interactive.

“We really just talk to the students,” Cleary said.  

The session will start by defining active bystanders and then distinguishing between bystanders and positive bystanders. Facilitators will incorporate an analysis of past events of violence, with a focus on how the bystanders and their intervention or lack of intervention played a role in the outcome.

Within the session, facilitators will discuss ways that students can intervene to prevent violence. Cleary emphasized the importance of safe intervention, recognizing that students are willing to help one another but “either they don’t know how to do it, or they don’t know how to do it safely, or they do, and they unintentionally make things worse.”

The project’s goal is to give students the tools to intervene in a safe and positive way.

During the session, facilitators will encourage students to “confront behavior that leads to cultural violence,” according to Cleary.

By this cultural violence, she means rape myths.

“So if we’re not calling that out, we’re contributing to a culture in which 1 in 5 women and 1 in 33 men are sexually assaulted at college campuses every year,” she said.  

So far the project has trained 15 facilitators, including members of the project’s staff, community partners, and educators in advocacy and prevention. The project is training more facilitators in October, with the objective of having a total of 30 facilitators.

After the training, facilitators will ask students to take a pledge. The pledge entails the student signing a commitment to be an “empowered bystander” by taking action when a situation is concerning or violent.

Already, most of the athletic teams have been trained in bystander intervention this year as required under the Enough is Enough law. Due to SUNY policy, all SUNY schools have been offering this training since 2014.

With the goal of reaching “as many students as possible,” the project is training all members of fraternity and sorority life as well as all student leaders of organizations.

In the future, the project may look into making the training mandatory for freshman so that within four years, all students on campus will have been trained in bystander intervention.

The We Care event, which has taken place in April for the past two years, is also part of the project.  During this event, UAlbany partners with Albany Medical Center so that students help create survivor kits for victims who can leave their physical exam with items of comfort like toothbrushes and fresh clothes.

In addition to the JuskAsk campaign, the We Care event is a way the project is trying to keep its presence throughout the school year.

“We should have more of a presence throughout the year with our education and prevention efforts,” said Cleary.

Currently, she wants to use the trained student leaders to incorporate more students that may not be as active on campus into the training.


Elise Coombs, a Syracuse native, is the editor-in-chief of the Albany Student Press. She is the co-Vice President of the UAlbany Mock Trial team, a member of Presidential Honors Society, and a peer mentor for the pre-law section of Writing and Critical Inquiry. After her time at UAlbany, she plans to go to law school and become a First Amendment lawyer.

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