Eastern Michigan University continues extensive, state-supported project to support survivors of sexual assault

EMU has engaged in broad educational efforts over the last six years

YPSILANTI – Eastern Michigan University is currently working on a State of Michigan grant to strongly support survivors of sexual assault, to help them navigate the reporting process and to continue to develop as a caring and supportive campus environment. 

The project is entitled “Create a Respectful Environment for Survivors” or “CARE for Survivors.”

The program, funded by a grant of nearly $50,000, builds on the Eastern’s deep body of grant-supported efforts over the last six years, initiatives that have sought to educate students on maintaining healthy relationships and helping prevent sexual assault. 

“This grant represents our extensive and continuing efforts to educate the campus community and to prevent sexual assaults at Eastern Michigan University,” said Ellen Gold, senior associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, and director of the grant. “The recent news stories about off-campus assaults underscore the importance of this work. We have made such initiatives a priority over the last six years, and have been recognized for that work. We resolve to continue in our diligent efforts and to deepen our understanding of how to support survivors throughout our campus.”

Anika Awai-Williams, Title IX Coordinator at Eastern Michigan University, said “The Title IX Office was excited to partner on the grant to educate about sexual violence and how to best respond to shared experiences from a trauma-informed lens.

“This has been an important opportunity to communicate EMU as a safe environment for survivors to feel supported by our university, and empower students to come forward and share their experience to get the help and support they need.”

This latest grant, in which work began last year, targets faculty, staff, and students to whom a survivor may turn to in order to report an incident of sexual misconduct or simply share a traumatic experience. 

Partnering with SafeHouse Center

The University is partnering with SafeHouse Center, a non-profit community agency that provides safety, support, advocacy and resources for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. The University and the Center will work together to provide sexual assault/interpersonal violence response trainings to various target groups.  

The grant focuses on three objectives:

1. Educate faculty and staff on how to use trauma-informed approaches to create an environment for students that may contribute to their success and well-being.

2. Train mandatory reporters on the Title IX reporting process with a trauma-informed lens, along with addressing vicarious trauma for the mandatory reporter.

3. Educate students to support peers who may be experiencing trauma, while recognizing and addressing their own emotional well-being. 

Targeting those in a position to help survivors

Such efforts focus on three specialized groups in a position to offer significant support. Those include faculty teaching undergraduate courses, staff who are mandatory reporters and those in advisory or student services/student affairs positions, and students who are in leadership and supportive roles for their peers.

The scope of the project includes:

  • A ”CARE for Survivors” social norms marketing campaign that will include the creation of posters, Website updates, quick fact resource wallet cards and magnets for reporting options, and meeting the needs of trauma-affected learners.
  • A “CARE for Survivors” train-the-trainer program presented by SafeHouse Center to train selected faculty and staff so they can conduct presentations to academic and co-curricular departments on trauma-informed approaches to supporting students as survivors in and out of the classroom, as well as understanding their responsibilities as reporters. A faculty/staff ‘quick facts’ resource guide will be developed for distribution to all faculty and pertinent staff.
  • Develop an online “CARE for Survivors” training module to be offered as an alternative to attending an in-person training or if a person cannot attend the in-person training.

Other measures include training for student leaders and those in supportive roles to peers (such as residence hall staff), further Active Bystander training and a nationally recognized speaker. 

Latest grant continues a strong focus at Eastern

Starting in 2015, this is the fourth grant related to sexual assault prevention EMU has received from the state of Michigan. In addition, Eastern has twice hosted the State of Michigan’s “Let’s End Campus Sexual Assault” summit, the last time coming in 2019

Previous efforts have established the following measures:

  •  Piloting of new “Healthy Relationship” workshop series with Greek Life.
  • Administration of a Campus Survey on Sexual Misconduct Culture in 2019.
  • Development of the “I Choose” and “EMU Students Choose to CARE” sexual assault prevention social marketing campaigns.
  • Creation of sexual assault prevention “I Choose” campaign video, posters, and website, and creation of three videos: healthy relationships, misconsent to consent, and bystander scenarios.
  • Implementation of the “Yes Means Yes” Preventing Gender Based Violence Education Program.
  • Implementation of the Speak Up Active Bystander Program, with a version for male students.

EMU’s efforts recognized by lawmakers

In 2016, Michigan legislators’ praised EMU’s efforts to prevent sexual assaults during a presentation by Gold.

Eastern Michigan and three other grant awardees were asked to share their grant-supported initiatives with legislators who are preparing next year’s budget.

Out of 22 Michigan universities and colleges receiving grant funds that year, EMU’s SMART proposal received a grant of $53,926 in Nov. 2015 This was the second highest amount awarded to any of the grantee institutions.

During her testimony, Gold said EMU’s efforts are designed to:

  • Increase help-seeking behaviors among EMU students.
  • Reduce the negative attitudes and myths about sexual assault that frame a victim blaming mentality.
  • Increase the number of students, faculty and staff who are aware of the University’s sexual misconduct policy, reporting protocol, and available resources.
  • Create a coordinated campus network that works to promote sexual assault prevention, education, and victim’s rights.

“Sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking are serious problems on colleges across the country, and our first-year students are quite vulnerable,” Gold said in summing up the program.

“We want to engage students in the first seven weeks on campus, a time when they are transitioning into their new life and may not know how or be comfortable enough to speak out when there is a problem. We’ll also reach out to targeted student groups and then evaluate the effectiveness of our efforts after a year.”

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 16,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

March 31, 2021

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Media Contact:
Geoff Larcom