When the University of Kansas implemented its first ever sexual assault bystander intervention training for all incoming students, social workers from the School of Social Welfare (SSW), including faculty/professors of practice, BSW and MSW alumni, and current students, played critical roles. Almost 4,000 students were trained in one day, Saturday, August 18, 2018. This momentous event was coordinated by the university's Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center. The bystander intervention training Jayhawks Give a Flock (JGAF) - a name created by KU students - is an adaptation of the evidence-based program.
On the day of the event, SSW affiliated social workers worked alongside staff, faculty, and graduate students from dozens of units, to facilitate approximately 120 JGAF sessions. For the social workers who participated, their motivation was driven by our shared social work values.
Zyrie Berry-Hendricks, BSW student and peer educator coordinator for SAPEC, shared “As social workers, it is our job to uphold social justice and preserve the dignity and worth of human beings, both of which are directly related to prevention work. Through an intentional, intersectional lens, SAPEC creates trainings that challenge oppressive systems and gives voices to those who previously have not had a platform. This work aligns with social work values and ethics entirely, as it is a practice in hope, change, and community building, eventually pushing towards a more accepting, inclusive campus free of violence and fear.”
Echoing this social work commitment to focus on individual and community level change, Rachel Auten, BSW ‘14, and Coordinator for Student Support and Case Management at KU shared, “I strive to empower people to be healthy and safe both for themselves and for their peers. Helping to prevent sexual assault is a way to do that for both potential survivors and perpetrators. I believe that it is my responsibility to educate my community on this matter in order to create a safer and more compassionate environment for all of us.”
Laurie Ramirez, Associate Professor of Practice and Liaison to Native Communities, reflected that JGAF was also an opportunity to contribute her unique experience and skill as a social worker into her facilitation. “When given the opportunity to receive training to be a facilitator in the Jayhawks Give a Flock program, I jumped at the chance. For me it was important to participate and be available to provide evidence-based prevention education to our students at KU. The curriculum was substantial but it also gave me an opportunity to infuse my perspective and experiences within the sessions I co-facilitated. I valued the opportunity to do so.”
In addition to being a JGAF facilitator on August 18, Dr. Juliana Carlson, Assistant Professor, was also the principal investigator for the research study testing the effectiveness of the training to impact student outcomes, including rape myth acceptance, and bystander attitudes and behaviors. The study, which was administered via the KU Guide app (and available in paper format), was part of SAPEC’s new implementation evaluation plan. The evaluation plan, funded by a 2018 grant from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and American Public Health, aims to increase SAPEC’s evaluation capacity of two core prevention programs.
“Sexual assault prevention is such an important space for social workers to be,” said Dr. Carlson. “With our person-in-environment framework and our commitment to social justice, social workers from our School clearly see the prevention of sexual violence and promotion of healthy gender norms as our work.” When the next round of JGAF trainings are offered to the KU student body, the KUSSW community will be at the ready to put social work values into action.