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Campus Sexual Assault Resource Center Develops Innovative New Programs to Enhance Student Safety

UC San Diego’s Sexual Assault & Violence Prevention Resource Center (SARC) has been successful in developing innovative and proactive violence prevention programs for the campus community. A new SARC program called “Who’s Checking You In/Out?” was recently launched to reduce the risk of cyberstalking and increase online safety.

The program was developed in response to increasing cases of stalking among 18 to 24 year-olds who use social media sites, according to Nancy Wahlig, director of SARC.

The program is in keeping with center’s mission to providing education and support services that empower students, faculty and staff to ensure a safe and respectful campus community that does not tolerate sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking.

With more than $1 million dollars of grants received over the past 15 years from the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Education and private donations, SARC has been successful in helping UC San Diego take a proactive approach to ensuring the health and safety its students.

“SARC is an excellent resource for students,” said Wahlig. “Our office works across campus to collaborate with various units and the support we’ve received from our campus community has greatly enhanced our prevention efforts and services to students.”

Since the successful 2011 campaign of “Every Little BIT (Bystander Intervention Training) Counts,” SARC has launched proactive campaigns, such as “Cute or Creepy” in addition to “Who’s Checking You In/Out?” that give student the ability to enhance their safety and wellbeing. 

SARC’s “Every Little BIT (Bystander Intervention Training) Counts…It Starts With You” campaign is an ongoing positive, inclusive and empowering program that encourages and teaches students bystander intervention strategies. Bystander intervention is when one person chooses to speak up, step in or engage others to help when witnessing uncomfortable situations. Although the training focuses on violence prevention, the BIT model can be applied to a variety of situations that students may encounter.

“Having had the BIT model developed at UC San Diego, we know it can be applied to other topics such as alcohol issues or racist comments,” Wahlig added.

The message of the “Who’s Checking You In/Out?” campaign is delivered through the online “Ollie Hoo the Advice Owl” avatar as well as in-person educational workshops. “Ollie Hoo,” has a consistent presence online and “tweets” on a regular basis to spread word of the campaign in the cyber world.

“’Ollie Hoo’s voice gives the campaign’s message in a concise, witty and informative manner which has been really popular with students,” said Jessica Heredia, SARC assistant director and outreach coordinator. “Ollie Hoo’s advice to students helps them identify relationship red flags that manifest in the cyber world and how to discuss online boundaries with a partner.”

Examples include “tweets” where Ollie Hoo advises student that “passwords are like toothbrushes, they shouldn’t’ be shared” and “Getting fit in 2014? Apply the same goal to your online life. Trim down that friends list.”

The workshop portion of the “Who’s Checking You In/Out?” program also offers skill-building in the area of online safety and reputation preservation and helps students to identify red flags that manifest in the cyber world. Due to the program’s success, SARC began integrating this program into freshman orientations in fall 2013.

SARC has also sponsored another bystander intervention program that helps prevent dating violence and stalking called “Cute or Creepy Where's the L.I.N.E.?” since 2011. The program addresses red flags in a relationship, asking students, for example, “Do you think 100 text messages in one hour are cute or creepy?” “Cute or Creepy” workshops have been offered to hundreds of students as well as staff members. These workshops are designed for mixed gender groups to enhance the discussion of what makes a healthy relationship.

SARC, which was established at UC San Diego more than 20 years ago, continues to offer comprehensive services for students impacted by violence, with a focus on survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking.

The center is available 24/7 for students and their friends who are affected by crime. Students can reach SARC after hours and on weekends through the UC San Diego Police non-emergency number 858-534-HELP (4357).

For more information, go to the SARC website.