By Camille Douglas
Entirely East Lansing
EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan State University Police will start a program in April to fight sexual assault called a bystander intervention network.
The bystander intervention network will train employees from various local bars and restaurants on how to spot sexual assault incidents and how to intervene to help victims. The network will also train taxi drivers from the Greater Lansing Taxi Authority.
“We chose to focus on training local restaurant staff members and drivers from the Greater Lansing Taxi Authority because very often, their jobs require them to be in interaction with the students,” said Detective Sgt. Andrea Beasinger of the Investigations Division of MSU’s Police Department. “They are placed in positions where they are able to identify and intervene before an assault takes place. This bystander intervention network will instructively teach members so that they are prepared and ready to step in when a situation occurs.”
MSU received a $12,000 grant from the state of Michigan in early November to create a bystander intervention network in the community to combat sexual assault. The government awarded $500,000 to 22 universities, including MSU, in an effort to find new strategies to prevent sexual assault on campuses. Each university is responsible for creating their own initiative dedicated to helping their college’s sexual assault issue.
“There is an increased focus on sexual assault prevention, which I think is inc
redibly powerful. For too long, sexual assault and sexual violence have not been taken seriously enough,” MSU Women’s Resource Center Interim Director Lydia Weiss said. “The commitment of financial backing to various programs dedicated to sexual assault prevention is encouraging. This is a step in the right direction.”
The MSU Women’s Resource Center is one of the on-campus committees that formed the idea for the bystander intervention network in early August with representatives from off-campus organizations. While many bystander intervention networks exist, the committees saw the need to create one collective network system to implement in the East Lansing community.
The one-time grant will fund the training sessions that will provide the necessary tools and expertise needed in order to safely intervene in situations. According to MSU Safe Place Director Holly Rosen, half of the grant money will be used to obtain the materials needed during training and the remaining amount will be used to create a part-time position in charge of facilitating the training seminars.
Since the sessions are still under development, there is a lack of detail as to what these sessions will look like or how effective they will be. However, Rosen hints to some of the topics the training seminars will cover.
“There will be an increased focus on the training employees of these establishments on how to properly identify if there is a threat of a potential assault and how to intervene,” Rosen said. “We will give these companies the tools they need in order to help the staff. We are not sure yet if these training sessions will be only one hour long or an all day thing, or if it will even be interactive because that has not been formulated yet.”
The MSU Police Department is currently working on creating brochures, flyers and posters to give to the participating organizations. These materials will work as a reminders for employees and community members on how to intervene in a difficult situation.
Training for local restaurants and bar staff members will begin in early April, Rosen estimates as she expects the sessions to be completely developed within the next month. Training for companies under the Greater Lansing Taxi Authority will not begin until the summer.
Currently, some of the bars and restaurants a part of the East Lansing Responsible Hospitality Council are the only named and confirmed places that will take part in these training sessions. These facilities include Harper’s, Rick’s, Landshark, and Crunchy’s.
Michael Krueger, general manager of Crunchy’s and member of the East Lansing Responsible Hospitality Council, is excited to implement the network training in the restaurant.
“I think this program will be more effective in the long run because as part of this city, we are implementing a community-wide program that will be distributed to other restaurants and companies,” Krueger said. “This network is one step in the right direction on how to reduce sexual assault related crimes from happening.”
Professional writing sophomore Madison Kautman supports the idea of a bystander network.
“I really like that people who are not necessarily uniformed officials are a part of looking out for potential assaults and are knowledgeable on how to intervene,” Kautman said. “It definitely makes me feel safer on campus and off.”
The committee originally requested a larger amount of money to be given for the initiative. With that larger sum, the committee hoped to hold similar training seminars for students. However, the state of Michigan denied this request, shortening the grant amount.
Despite this, Office of Institutional Equity Director Ande Durojaiye believes that the bystander intervention network will prove to be successful once it is initiated.
“The creation of a bystander intervention network is an innovative idea that will hopefully increase safety in our community,” Durojaiye said. “I believe that the more awareness and training people have, the more likely we are to create an atmosphere where people feel empowered to intervene when something isn’t right. Restaurant and taxi staffs have a unique perspective on situations that might require intervention, with the proper training. I have hope that it will create positive change in our community.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of the director of the Office of Institutional Equity. He is Ande Durojaiye.