Federal grant funds The Harbor after Health Services budget cuts

Janelle Fassi, Crier staff

Students were outraged when budget cuts hit Health Services last month. The Harbor, which partners with Health Services, and provides sexual violence prevention, intervention and response has thankfully not been affected by the cuts, thanks to a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).

The Office on Violence Against Women gave the college a three-year grant in October 2016. This grant is an opportunity to create collaborative and student-centered ways to help reduce and better respond to sexual assault, stalking and dating violence on campus. This includes putting together a strategic plan to develop a coordinated community response team with the Goffstown Police Department, YWCA and other groups on campus. Amanda Casali is the OVW Program-Project Coordinator of The Harbor and was hired in February 2017.

Casali, a Saint Anselm graduate, knows how susceptible college students, particularly freshmen, are to sexual violence. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 20-25% of college women and 15% of college men are victims of forced sex during their time at college. Keep in mind, however, more than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses don’t report the assault.

Andrew Litz, the Dean of Students, admits that there have been four alcohol-related transports to the hospital so far, which is relatively quiet compared to past years.

“We don’t want to lull people in a false sense of security,” Litz says.

Studies between 2002 and 2009 have shown that 50-70% of campus sexual assault involves alcohol. The toolkit, Addressing Alcohol’s Role in Campus Sexual Assault created by UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work emphasizes that alcohol does not cause sexual assault and that it is never the victim’s fault. However, it says that understanding the role of alcohol in sexual assault is important in prevention strategies, creating trauma informed messaging and breaking misperceptions that occur when alcohol is present in a sexual assault situation.

In the short few weeks since school started, Casali admits that Saint Anselm students have already been victimized.

“The first six weeks are a red zone for sexual assault,” Casali explains. “More than 50% of assaults occur in August, September, October and November.”

This is a surprising statistic, considering Saint Anselm is a small school and is known for its Anselmian spirit. However, she insists that the although the Hilltop is a small institution, it is not exempt from this issue. The College is on par with the bigger universities regarding sexual assault.

“People will walk by and ask why we have The Harbor. There’s a lot of positive that happens on campus, but these things do occur.”

Casali thinks the coordinated community response team will be a great resource to survivors of sexual assault because it limits how many times a person has to tell their story.

She emphasizes, “We don’t want to retraumatize people. We want to limit the ongoing stressors that could happen.”

Most importantly, she wants the program to make students feel safer and create a judgment-free zone for survivors. Students who are interested in these services can go to the lower level of the Jean Student Center; look for the frosted windows near CAB. The average student just walking by may not know the purpose of the frosted windows, but it actually “makes people feel a little more comfortable.” They also create a sense of privacy, which is really rare in a college campus, a factor that may be triggering to a victim.

The Harbor is described as “a campus-based center that will serve as a hub for broad campus and community engagement on issues of sexual assault, dating and domestic violence and stalking on campus.” It is survivor-centered for victims to gain confidential support and aims to reduce violence through a comprehensive education for bystanders on campus, as well as leadership programs for advocates. Throughout the year, The Harbor will provide interested students with bystander trainings, escalation workshops, group discussions on sexual violence and a peer educator program planned this fall.

Peer educators on sexual violence don’t have to be victims themselves. “We’re looking for people, whether you’re a sociology or criminal justice major, have experienced hardship, or just want to become involved.”

Casali says, “It’s so important for The Harbor to be for Saint Anselm.” Having student involvement will help build The Harbor.

“Right now, it’s just me,” she laughs.

While Casali may be the only staff member, AVERT is a powerful ally for The Harbor. AVERT, which stands for Assault Violence Education and Reporting Team, is a group that plans and reviews prevention programs, bystander trainings, victim support resources and campus policies. AVERT is alive in the following groups on campus: Health Services, Nursing, Campus Safety and Security, Criminal Justice, Gender Studies, Residential Life, MCES and Athletics.

With the Meelia Center, the Multicultural Center, Campus Ministry, Campus Activities Board, and much more, there are so many things on campus people will gravitate to. Once more students know The Harbor exists, they will understand the mission and want to feel invested in it and become comfortable stopping by.

“Hopefully, The Harbor will be something students form a positive connection to, and that’s already happening, and I think it’s cool.”

Students make a big difference because they are the ones who know what’s needed in order to create a safer atmosphere on campus, and they’ll know where to make changes.

Casali encourages students to give ideas on how to make The Harbor a comforting space for all people on campus. She says, “It’s a space where people are coming through the doors for any reason. It’s also space for privacy if needed.”

For students who want to become involved with this great program, don’t be afraid to stop by. There are plenty of opportunities, such as the Enough is Enough event in November, which creates awareness of sexual assault. Shirts created by sexual assault victims and awareness advocates will be on display during this event.

For those students who want a hands-on experience learning how to combat sexual assault, register for a Rape, Aggression, Sexual Assault Systems (RAD) class. The course is being put on by the Goffstown Police Department, with 10 available slots. Sign-ups are in the Harbor office. Classes start Oct 16 and will be held in the West Wing of NHIOP.

The Escalation Training is another option, which proved to be an eye opening experience for students last month. The training is a showing of the forty minute film, Escalation, which follows two young college students developing a relationship and veering on a dangerous path. A student-led discussion on the issues in the film and college sexual assault follow the viewing. The training is incredibly important because it engages students in a conversation on how to be a bystander in a prosocial way.

The program was started by Sharon Love to bring education and awareness towards dating violence. Sexual assault and stalking are also discussed in the film. Love created the “One Love Foundation” after her daughter Yeardley was killed by her abusive ex-boyfriend when she was a senior in college.

Casali said the program has been successful in the past and was “received well overall.”

Once The Harbor establishes a team of peer educators and student allies, the College can improve rape culture and become a safe place to talk about difficult issues. Because the grant supporting The Harbor lasts only three years, it’s unknown what will happen when that time is up. Casali suggests, “Possibly a continuation of the grant if that’s something that’s offered after all the budgets or if the school supports it.”

Take note Anselmians. The Harbor needs your help to make the Saint Anselm community an even better place to grow. Whether you’re a victim of assault, want to become a peer educator, or just want somewhere to relax, go to The Harbor located in the new student center. Grab a #haulttheassault and infinity semicolon sticker while you’re there to show support against sexual assault.