At Fairfield University, a Jesuit institution set on 200 acres on Connecticut’s coastline, new students get an early start on learning about consensual sex, being an active bystander, and sexual assault and prevention.
Over the summer, incoming students take a mandatory online education program that addresses subjects such as sexual assault and stalking. They learn techniques to empower themselves, particularly in vulnerable situations. When they arrive on campus in the days before fall classes begin, they are broken up by gender and meet in groups where they have frank discussions about consent. They are taught tools about giving affirmative consent during relationships with partners, according to Karen Donoghue, associate vice president and dean of students at Fairfield.
“The first six weeks are considered the red zone [when] it comes to sexual assault,” she says.
Donoghue says that the university also trains all students in being “active bystanders,” who watch out for sexual assault, violence, harassment and stalking.
“Then we are also giving them techniques like watching out for your friend. If you see someone in trouble, call and get them help,” she says. “We are giving them tools to speak up if someone is using derogatory and harassing language to stop them from using those terms or hitting on someone who is incapacitated. We want to create a culture in which someone steps in if another person is being taken advantage of.”