Penn State begins bystander intervention training program

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As part of its initiative to combat sexual assault and harassment, Penn State is hosting its first bystander intervention training aimed at preparing faculty, staff and community members with the skills to teach students and professional staff how to prevent sexual misconduct by diffusing potentially risky situations by intervening safely and effectively.

The four-day training session, which starts Monday (June 8), is the first phase of the initiative. Known as Green Dot, the program will provide a core group of Penn State faculty and staff with the skills and understanding to foster a safe environment, recognize when it is appropriate to intervene and empower people to diffuse problematic situations.

“Everyone has a role to play in preventing violence and watching out for each other. The training is a tangible way to say: These are roles you can play, by preventing a potentially harmful situation, or by recognizing the contributions we can all make in our daily lives to proactively create a culture on campus that does not tolerate sexual misconduct,” said Katie Tenny, chair of Penn State’s Bystander Intervention Initiative.

In February, President Eric Barron accepted 18 recommendations from the Task Force on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment, ranging from undertaking a comprehensive climate survey to creating the position of Title IX coordinator and office. The University has begun to implement many of the task force recommendations, including conducting a climate survey and implementing a new model for investigating sexual misconduct cases.

One of the recommendations was creating an initiative that encourages members of the community to step in when they see something that undermines the community needed to respond to misconduct, including sexual misconduct.

Tenny said that participating in the bystander invention training is one step that members of the Penn State community can be part of and help to implement.

The first phase of the bystander intervention initiative will train the instructors by providing a group of Penn State faculty and staff with the skills and understanding to know when it is appropriate to intervene and how to do it.

The program is being provided by Green Dot, etc., a bystander intervention initiative that provides intervention training programs at universities, schools and communities across the country. Founder Dorothy Edwards and her staff will work with the participants over the course of four days, covering topics such as participants’ connection to issues of sexual violence; obstacles to stepping in and ways to overcome them; and what to do when a situation feels unsafe.

Those who go through the full training will have the option to provide workshops in the future for other faculty, staff and students. The approximately 75 faculty and staff members participating in the full program come from 19 Penn State campuses, including University Park.

Barry Bram, special assistant to vice president of Student Affairs, said the training is an initial step for faculty and staff to learn about bystander intervention and how to create a caring environment. Bram noted that the skills learned apply not only to potential situations of sexual misconduct, but to bias-related incidents and issues surrounding mental health and high-risk substance use.

“We want the participants to come away with the knowledge and an ethic of caring about one another, and learn to intervene whenever it’s appropriate,” Bram said. “It’s really about the decisions people make in their everyday lives.”

Last Updated January 18, 2016