Student claims UNT’s sexual assault training program has assertions of blame

Student claims UNT’s sexual assault training program has assertions of blame

Student claims UNT’s sexual assault training program has assertions of blame
August 23
17:48 2017

A UNT student claimed the university’s sexual assault training program, Haven, has questions centered around victim blaming. Haven is a national online program used by more than 650 institutions.

Micah Crittenden is a sexual assault survivor, but the trauma led her to withdraw from classes. After eight years away, Crittenden has returned to college to finish her degree. When she got to UNT, Crittenden was asked to complete Haven’s sexual assault program.

She could not finish the training due to the way some information was phrased. 

“A significant number of questions contain an assertion of blame,” Crittenden said. “That assertion of blame is one of the top things women or men post-rape deal with.”

Crittenden discussed some of the specific questions that brought up concerns, including one that read “a person who has been drinking and is sexually assaulted is never at fault for what happened to them.”

“By asking that question you are telling victims that some people think it’s your fault,” Crittenden said.

Another question read “it’s not my responsibility to prevent sexual assault at my school.”

“If they’re asking whose responsibility it is to prevent sexual assault, then I’m guessing they want you to answer that it’s everyone’s responsibility,” Crittenden said in response. “I argue that’s simply not the case. That is the individual’s responsibility not to sexually assault people.”

Crittenden asserts these types of questions can cause victims to blame themselves, the bystanders, the person who assaulted them or the circumstances surrounding the assault. She brought these concerns to Renee McNamara, a UNT survivor advocate.

“I am always available to listen to student concerns and I appreciate hearing student feedback,” McNamara stated in an email. “I think talking with Micah was valuable and she tweeted afterward that she felt it was a productive meeting.”

McNamara said Haven helps UNT promote student health and safety. Multiple attempts to reach EVERFI, the company who issues Haven, were unsuccessful.

“Haven educates students about the elements of healthy relationships, being a good communicator, understanding and reporting sexual assault, the importance of sexual consent and the role of bystanders in creating safe, healthy communities,” McNamara said.

Organizations like Denton County Friends of the Family provide support to individuals impacted by rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence.

Nicole Owens, community education liaison for DCFF, said UNT does a good job of addressing sexual assault and DCFF is close partners with the Dean of Students office. Owens said victim blaming is never the appropriate response to sexual assault.

“We are strongly against victim blaming because we know it can be harmful to anyone who has experienced sexual assault,” Owens said. “The person who has committed sexual assault or abuse against the other person makes that choice and it’s always their choice.”

Owens looked at the program and thought it was a good tool to help understand the community’s mentality on the subject.   

“Anytime we talk about sexual assault it could be triggering for people,” Owens said. “Definitely, the intention here was not to cause anyone to feel any blame for their sexual assault. It’s really intended for the opposite — to understand who is already feeling that way. What the culture of the school is and work to better that in the long run.”

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, RAINN, is an anti-sexual violence organization that offers a sexual assault hotline at (800) 656-4673. According to RAINN’s website 321,500 Americans 12 or older are sexually assaulted each year.

Crittenden is afraid victims of sexual assault will encounter the program and have a painful experience. She hopes the questions will change from blame to action and envisioned a questionnaire centered around developing safety plans.

“They are forced to relive their own rape and their own sexual assault and that’s no place to be as you are getting ready to start your academic career,” Crittenden said. “We need to re-direct away from these blame-focused questions and instead focus on actions that we as a community can take.”

Featured Image: Haven is a sexual assault training software that trains students on healthy relationships, consent and how to report sexual assault. File Photo 

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Devin Rardin

Devin Rardin

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1 Comment

  1. Me
    Me August 25, 14:32

    1. Clear, verbal, and sober permission is the best way to make sure a person is okay with sexual activity.
    2. I know how to report a sexual assault at my school.
    3. In a sexual situation, I would make sure to communicate with the other person about what they want.
    4. I would reach out to offer support to a friend who I suspect is in an abusive relationship.
    5. I can identify concerning behaviors related to abuse in relationships.
    6. I would not engage in sexual activity with someone if the other person was incapacitated by alcohol or drugs.
    7. I am confident in my ability to intervene effectively in a potential sexual assault situation.
    8. Most students at my school would take action in a situation in which someone was trying to take advantage of another person sexually.
    9. I would respect a person who took action to prevent a sexual assault.
    10. A person who has been drinking and is sexually assaulted is never at fault for what happened to them.
    11. I would take action in a situation in which someone was trying to take advantage of another person sexually.
    12. Most students at my school would express concern if they saw a person exhibiting abusive behavior toward their partner.
    13. It is not my responsibility to prevent sexual assault at my school.
    14. Most students at my school would not engage in sexual activity with someone if the other person was incapacitated by alcohol or drugs.
    15. I would respect someone who made sure they asked for and received consent in a sexual situation.
    16. Most students at my school would never place blame on a person who told them someone else had sexually assaulted them.
    17. I am aware of support resources related to sexual assault and relationship violence at my school.
    18. In a sexual situation, most students at my school would make sure to communicate with the other person about what they want.
    19. I would express concern if I saw a person exhibiting abusive behavior toward their partner.
    20. I would never place blame on a person who told me that someone had sexually assaulted them.

    Reply to this comment

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