This past weekend, December 1-3, approximately forty students gathered in Griffiths 123 to receive AWARE training via members of the SLU Advocates. The training was the second one put on by the Advocates this semester— a first for the campus organization that advocates for survivors of sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.
The SLU Advocates Program has hosted a single training each semester since its creation in 2005. While hundreds of SLU students have become AWARE-certified through these trainings, President Isis Flores ’17 and Vice President Lydia Kenney ’18 recognized that there were often students left behind due to their inability to attend the single weekend training. As Chris Rich ’18 states, “I had wanted to do the training for the last few years, but the dates had never been compatible with my schedule.”
In an effort to allow more individuals on campus to become trained, Kenney and Flores opted to create a second training that fell a few months after the first, with the first training taking place on September 22-24.
In addition to educating those in attendance about issues pertaining to sexual assault, rape, dating violence, and stalking, becoming AWARE-trained allows individuals the opportunity to participate in supporting the 24-hour Advocates hotline and being a peer resource. Many individuals who partake in the training choose not to actively participate in the Advocates program; rather, they see the training as an important educational experience.
Kenney emphasizes that AWARE training is an important aspect of the Advocates program as it allows the advocates to educate the student body in a more personal way than through other means. She states, “While tabling is a good way to raise awareness about sexual violence, the trainings allow us to have a more direct impact on the students. It’s also generally more effective, as it allows the advocates to delve into specifics of what they do rather than just our mission statement.”
AWARE training also offers students the chance to interact with SLU deans, chaplains, and health and counseling professionals, all of whom are able to give a more tailored overview of their roles on campus and the ways in which SLU deals with assaults of varying natures. For example, Lisa Cania, the Title XI coordinator, comes in to field questions about the SLU processes for addressing sexual assault, inter-partner violence, and stalking, while Chaplains Kathleen Buckley and Shaun Whitehead discuss the ways in which the chapel can be used as a resource.
Flores, Kenney, and many other advocates are hopeful that they will be able to continue the practice of holding two AWARE trainings per semester; while both Flores and Kenney will be exiting the program’s executive board in the coming semester, there are talks of maintaining the tradition they have now begun in the years to come.