Peer educators teach fellow GVSU students about sexual assault

GVL / Courtesy -

GVL / Courtesy –

Jessica Harsevoort

To continue teaching Grand Valley State University students how to help end sexual assault on campus, the Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity (CWGE) created Peer Education and Prevention (P.E.P.) Talks, a new and interactive bystander intervention training program.

The first public P.E.P. Talk will take place Tuesday, Oct. 17, in Room 2215/2216 of the Kirkhof Center. The 90-minute program will start at 8 p.m. and will be available to all GVSU students.

“I think sexual assault on college campuses is a huge problem in our society,” said Hannah Fiewig, a peer educator for P.E.P. Talks. “So, I think it’s important that we step up and talk about it. I want to teach people how they can stand up in those situations.”

At the event, two co-presenters will direct a conversation to teach people how to intervene in situations where sexual assault or harassment may occur. The discussion will center on information such as the definitions of active bystanders, rape culture and empathy.

The goal of this interactive event is to equip attendees with facts and tools to handle potentially harmful situations. The talk will address informational statistics and case studies while also incorporating group participation through questions, scenarios and skill-building exercises.

P.E.P Talks takes a different approach to discussing consent and bystander intervention than other programs, as college students are teaching other students.

“Students are more receptive to their peers talking to them,” said Krystal Diel, the campus sexual assault grant graduate assistant at the CWGE. “It makes it more personable and helps students be more receptive to the message.”

Fiewig said it is easier for peer educators to reach out to students while they are explaining sexual assault and violence prevention techniques. 

“I can connect better with them and see it from their level because I am on that same level,” she said. 

The CWGE applied for the Campus Sexual Assault Grant Program, and GVSU was awarded $33,454 by the state of Michigan for the 2016-17 application period.

After receiving the state grant funds, the CWGE developed P.E.P. Talks and hired peer educators. The selected GVSU students were then trained with a model from the national curriculum “Bringing in the Bystander.”

“I think it’s a very important program to have because, at the end of the day, the responsibility falls on all of us to protect … each other,” Diel said. “One of the biggest ways we can get involved is by intervening before sexual assault can occur.”

Since the beginning of the fall semester, more than four P.E.P. Talks have been given to student organizations, Greek life and on-campus housing. The presentations are typically held by request for specific groups, but there will be a few events where anyone who is interested may attend.

P.E.P. Talks are LIB 100- and 201-approved.