October 21, 2014

Program uses mentors to teach intervention against sexual violence

The Mentor in Violence Prevention program is teaching Iowa high school and college students how to prevent sexual assault. MVP coaches the students to intercede when they recognize signs of looming sexual violence.

Iowa State University student Tucker Carrell participated in MVP while in high school and says sometimes it’s hard to speak up, but it’s important to act. “I know one of the biggest things that we consistently talked about and that I really took from this whole program was just listening to things happen, being that bystander,” Carrell says. “It really almost hurts you more and affects you more because you hang on to that and you remember that as well as letting you know whoever is committing some kind of action or harmful act know that’s okay or think that is okay.”

A recent study found one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college. Alan Heisterkamp (HY-stir-camp), director of the Mentors in Violence Prevention Leadership Institute, says silence in the face of disrespect or assault condones sexual violence, so the program teaches bystander intervention.

Heisterkamp says, “You may think that it’s wrong but if we speak out or respond in a way to correct the behavior, often times the abuse or the inappropriate comments can come back on me because the culture of that system doesn’t support those prosocial behaviors.” Carrell and Heisterkamp made their comments on the Iowa Public Radio program, “River to River.”