In fall 2013, a team from the University Health Center’s health promotion department created “Watch Dawgs,” a bystander intervention training program for UGA students, faculty and staff. Bystander intervention is an initiative that asks individuals to actively prevent incidents before they occur, ensuring the safety of fellow members of the campus community.
“Effective bystander programs foster a supportive environment for others to speak out against sexist attitudes, rape myth beliefs, dangerous behaviors including excessive alcohol consumption and sexual violence,” said Liz Prince, associate director of health promotion and the John Fontaine Jr. Center for Alcohol Awareness and Education. “Confronting these situations can start the shift in social norms of a community and society as a whole.”
The training program focuses on what might be observed before dangerous situations occur. Incidents typically occur on a continuum of increasing danger. If individuals can recognize some of the cues early on, they can intervene and prevent the situation from escalating.
The program engages students in an interactive process, enabling them to practice skills through hypothetical scenarios and discuss methods for intervention in a variety of situations. Nearly 800 students have completed the training, including several Greek organizations and almost all student-athletes.
Scenarios, background information and resources are available on a range of topics including alcohol use, depression, discrimination, disordered eating, hazing, relationship abuse and sexual assault.
The university began addressing the need for sexual assault awareness and prevention programs well ahead of last month’s launch of the “It’s On Us” campaign, a nationwide initiative led by the Obama administration.
In addition to the University Health Center and Watch Dawgs, departments across campus have planned several programs that support the tenets of “It’s On Us,” including the Office of the Provost’s Women’s Resources Initiative, a collaboration with Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Student Government Association to bring “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” Recreational Sports’ “Late Night at Ramsey” and an Open Dialogue on Sexual Assault, hosted by the Equal Opportunity Office.
The National Awareness Week for “It’s On Us” is Nov. 17-21. Beginning in November, students will be able to register for Watch Dawgs training by visiting www.uhs.uga.edu/watchdawgs.