By Paige Schlichte
A three-session course created by RVAP titled Advocating for a Safer Community is being offered to the Iowa City community for the first time through Beadology Iowa.
Participants who attend all three sessions receive a certification stating they underwent the training.
Britt Griffin, the RVAP community prevention coordinator who conceptualized the courses, said they were designed to start bridging the gap by creating a community of allies and ambassadors for RVAP.
“The staff at RVAP are out there doing this work every day, but we also need to have champions out in the world who are preaching this message because there’s only so many of us at RVAP,” said Susan Junis, assistant director of prevention and outreach at RVAP.
Junis said this training is a way to start a culture change and create an environment that is safer for survivors.
“We at RVAP can’t do this alone — we can’t change the culture of a whole community without the community,” Griffin said. “We have survivors that are here because of this problem, so we need to ask ‘How we can be on their side? What are the tools in our toolbox to make changes?’ ”
Griffin said the first session focuses on the culture behind sexual assault and why one in four women, one in six men, and one in two transgender people experience sexual assault in their lifetime. It also touches on how the community can move toward a culture of consent.
“We have to give people the background and the basis for understanding the problem before we can start talking about solutions and how to achieve those solutions as a community,” Griffin said.
The second session is centered on survivor “allyship” and helping people understand how to be there for survivors in their community. Part of this includes training on how to respond to disclosures of sexual violence in the most trauma-informed way.
“Most people are disclosing to people they trust, whether that might be staff, faculty, or a friend,” Junis said. “We want to equip people who aren’t immersed in the movement to end sexual violence with the skills to take it on as their own cause.”
Allyship played a key role in Beadology Iowa co-owner Karen Kubby’s decision to bring this course to her business.
“We’re not an exclusively women space, but we are a very women-centered space, and we are a warm, trusted place for our customers,” Kubby said. “People were talking to us a lot about their past experiences with sexual assault and harassment, and we wanted to know how to better be helpful in our responses.”
The final session, which wrapped up at Beadology Iowa on Nov. 21, is aimed at creating a culture of care through actions such as bystander intervention and how to have difficult conversations with family members, friends, and coworkers.
Griffin said RVAP plans to offer the Advocating for a Safer Community programs in the Iowa City School District, through the university, and in the community.
“It is pervasive in our culture, and we need to turn that around,” Kubby said. “Now is a good time to turn it around.”