Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center

new 2015 SAPAC Volunteers

By Anne Huhman, Program Manager for Education and Prevention

SAPAC held its annual Volunteer Training Program from January 27th – February 8th this year which included a mixture of presentations, dialogues, and small-group discussions.  We are thrilled to welcome 92 new students to our three volunteer programs, which is almost double the number from last year. 

One exciting new aspect of this year’s training included a collaboration with Dr. Michelle Munro, Research Fellow in the School of Nursing and former SAPAC Peer Educator.  Dr. Munro is teaching a brand new, for-credit class through the Health Sciences and Women’s Studies Departments called Gender-Based Violence: From Theory to Action.  As part of the experiential learning hour requirements for the class, students are required to attend either SAPAC or SafeHouse Center’s Volunteer Training Programs.  Thirty of our new volunteers came to us through this class!

New volunteers participated in a core curriculum that included introductory information around sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking, and how to effectively respond to and support someone who has experienced these kinds of traumas.  In addition, new volunteers learned about the University of Michigan’s Sexual Misconduct Policy.

The “Foundations of Social Justice and Social Identity” workshop provided an opportunity for students to reflect upon their social identities and discuss how they impact experiences and perspectives. 

Another workshop designed for new volunteers focused on the sometimes overwhelming nature of this work and the importance of taking care of ourselves.  Participants discussed different self-care techniques and goals for both physical and emotional self-care. 

“Primary Prevention: Envisioning a World Without Violence” provided a framework for prevention and explained what it means to stop violence before it ever starts.  Participants learned about similarities between the sexual violence prevention movement and other social and public health movements and campaigns.  Presenters discussed how we can learn from the successes of other movements in order to effectively create social change.    

Finally, new volunteers participated in a session on bystander intervention which focused on some of the reasons why it is difficult to intervene in situations that are harmful, hurtful, or disrespectful and provided participants with an opportunity to practice strategies for intervening safely and respectfully. 

Returning volunteers completed a separate curriculum that was focused on continuing their educational and professional development.  These workshops provided information about the University of Michigan’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program, how to communicate and build relationships across identity, social justice elitism, and the benefits of play. 

Finally, SAPAC included post-training debrief sessions facilitated by current volunteers.  This provided a safe space for students to discuss the content from training and transition back into the “real world.” 

Volunteer training concluded with an exercise in which students were asked to express what they felt empowered to do after having participated in the program.  Some of the comments included:

  • Be empathetic
  • To ensure time for self-care
  • Stand up for other identities
  • Teach others that consent is absolutely necessary
  • Teach others about the importance of bystander intervention
  • Understand that education is a process and that seeking support for myself is as important as supporting future allies
  • Be an empathic listener
  • Empower survivors and raise awareness
  • Support the survivors in my life
  • Share my story
  • Educate and create change
  • Have a meaningful impact on the Michigan community
  • Be authentically empathetic and supportive to people of all identities
  • Challenge societal norms
  • Challenge myself more
  • Have a voice
  • Change the world!

On behalf of the entire SAPAC staff, we’d like to congratulate all students on completing volunteer training.  We are proud of you and look forward to seeing all of the amazing work you do in the months and years to come. 

Also, thank you to the SAPAC staff and all of the presenters who helped make volunteer training such a success this year! 

We look forward to welcoming new volunteers again in the winter of 2016! If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please visit the SAPAC website and fill out an application: http://sapac.umich.edu/application

 Thank you!