UT offers class on sexual violence prevention to help students in workforce

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - It's two credit hours and a once a week class where a small group of UT students focus on course work revolved around sexual violence: the problem, challenges and creating change.

Students learn about ways to prevent and respond to sexual violence issues on campus and in any environment. It was developed as a graduate student's final thesis and then the curriculum was added in the spring 2017 semester.

"I thought it was just going to be a filler class and I learned so much from it," said senior Holly Dial.

The class consists of juniors and seniors and is part of the Educational Leadership Studies program's special topic series.

"I think it's really interesting because I get to hear a perspective from a lot of really well educated females in my class and hear what they have to say and then I also get to provide a male perspective to that and what that looks like," said senior Travis Baity.

"We don't want them to just create change on campus, we want them to create change wherever they go. And so now that they have the knowledge and leadership skills, they know how to be an active bystander," said Deputy Title IX Coordinator Sarah Thomas.

Students have taken part in honest discussions, interview projects, and studied the problem of sexual violence on campus as part of their course work.

"We have seen a huge increase in reported instances of sexual violence on campus and that isn't because sexual violence wasn't happening 'X' number of years ago. It's because the avenues to report are now easier for students," said senior Ruth Watson.

Classmates say it's broadened their perspective and they're feeling empowered as they apply for their first jobs.

"I think that's one of the things that stood out to me most and one of the things I can carry with me and say, 'Hey, I will be someone who will be there for you,'" said Dial.

"A lot of times males feel disconnected to the issue, but whenever you connect males to the issue that's where change is going to happen," added Baity.

One of the projects a student is working on is developing a mandatory training program for staff members on campus to better equip everyone.

The class is funded by a grant, specifically one to reduce sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking on campus. UT was awarded that money in September 2015 to carry out this three year project.

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