Apr 3, 2017 | Atlanta, GA
April is National Sexual Assault Awareness month, but year-round Georgia Tech has a group of students that are committed to changing the conversation and culture around sexual and relationship violence on campus. The VOICE Peer Education Program develops a new cohort of Peer Educators each year. This diverse group of dedicated students are trained to educate other students on issues related to sexual and relationship violence prevention and survivor support.
VOICE, Georgia Tech’s sexual and relationship violence prevention and response initiative in the Office of Health Promotion, is at the forefront of engaging the Tech community. The VOICE Peer Education Program is an initiative under VOICE. To become a VOICE Peer Educator, students commit to a semester of weekly Monday evening training meetings in the fall, and continued weekly meetings in the spring semester, in addition to giving presentations to student groups and organizations after completing fall training. The hope is that Peer Educators will continue participation into the following year.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” a Margaret Mead quote that a VOICE Peer Educator noted when asked what inspired them to become and continue to dedicate their time to VOICE.
Having a personal connection to sexual violence was a common motivator for many Peer Educators to get involved. “Knowing so many people who have been victims/survivors of sexual violence is what motivated me to be a Peer Educator,” one Peer Educator said. Another said that during high school, a friend was sexually abused, and when their friend confided in them, they felt a personal obligation to help in any way possible.
Peer Educators commented that sexual violence has affected friends of all genders, so “this is not only a ‘women’s’ issue and can happen to everyone.” Additionally, Peer Educators commented that the impact of sexual violence is not just limited to survivors. “Without knowledge of bystander intervention, survivor support, or consent, individuals may be facilitating sexual violence,” a Peer Educator said. Another Peer Educator commented, “Staying vigilant about language, legislation, support, and awareness is the most important step in preventing sexual violence.”
To bring awareness to the Georgia Tech community, VOICE Peer Educators are available to give presentations to students and student groups, who can submit an online request form via the Health Promotion website. Health Promotion staff-led presentations are also available upon request
“Most people are aware that sexual violence is an issue on campus, but are not aware what they can do personally to combat it,” a Peer Educator said. “Receiving a presentation is a simple, immediate, effective way to impact this serious issue that affects so many people.”
One VOICE Peer Educator concluded, “We have a job to look out for our Georgia Tech family—this knowledge [from the presentations] might actually save a survivor’s life and it’s important that survivors on campus to know that they are supported.”
You can do your part in joining the solution to sexual and relationship violence at Georgia Tech. We can all use our voices to change the culture to prevent sexual and relationship violence at Georgia Tech. Share with us how you pledge to use your VOICE. Visit http://healthpromotion.gatech.edu/voice/SAAM to learn more.
If students are interested in getting more involved, applications for the new cohort of VOICE Peer Educators will open in fall 2017. Additionally, the student organization, PAUSE (People Against Unwanted Sexual Experiences), works to raise awareness about sexual violence on campus, and is always welcoming new members. Finally, SGA has a Sexual Violence Advisory Board that will take new members in fall 2017.