Training Resident Assistants to Ensure Student Safety

By Jordan Unger

Occurrences of sexual assault and stalking raise concerns for college campuses, and Youngstown State University is taking steps to prevent these issues.

YSU resident assistants went through training earlier this month to better understand sexual misconduct and how to handle it appropriately in the campus dorms.

Cynthia Kravitz is the Title IX coordinator at YSU and led the RA training. Kravitz said the students were educated on YSU’s policies of sexual misconduct and the different types of assault.

The students were then taught how to detect signals of sexual misconduct, how to report it and how to intervene. Kravitz said proper communication with individuals involved is essential.

“We train them on how to deal with someone who is in that situation either as the person who has been victimized or the person who is the accused perpetrator,” Kravitz said.

Eddie Howard, the associate vice president of the YSU Division of Student Experience, said the training is significant, because RAs are identified as mandatory reporters.

“Since they are the front line when it comes to residence halls and student interaction, they are going to have access to more information quicker than some of us administrators,” Howard said. “It is important for them to recognize the signs.”

According to Kravitz, the most prevalent form of sexual misconduct at YSU is stalking. Kravitz said approximately one report for stalking is received each month.

Most of the stalking and sexual assault reports at YSU derive from bad relationships. Kravitz said the level of intervention into these cases can vary depending on the situation.

“Maybe it’s just speaking to the individuals,” Kravitz said. “Maybe it’s sending the individuals to counseling for healthy relationships. There’s a whole continuum depending on what the circumstances are.”

The location of sexual misconduct depends on the school year and group of students, but Kravitz said the places to look out for these occurrences are at off-campus parties.

“They’re off campus, so there’s no RA or supervision, and you get a lot of underage drinking and excessive drinking,” Kravitz said. “That is where a lot of these issues arise.”

The RA training is conducted in two sets, but efforts to spread awareness of sexual misconduct continue throughout the year. Title IX programs and events take place annually at YSU, including speakers during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October and the Clothesline Project.

The general student population will take a web-based seminar in the near future to help students understand sexual assault, recognize the signs and learn how to intervene.

Title IX programming is also incorporated into IGNITE to educate upcoming freshmen on how to stay safe.

Howard said the goal of these programs is to get individuals to have conversations about when things are moving too quickly and to not pressure one another into something he or she is not comfortable with.

“It’s a big discussion that takes a lot of time for us to talk to students about,” Howard said.

Kravitz said the RAs who participate in the training grasp a greater understanding of sexual assault and the importance of preventing it.

AnnaMaria Jadue, a YSU student who has lived on campus the past two years, said the RA training will make the dorms a safer place for students.

“RAs have a closer relationship with students than the administration,” Jadue said. “[They] have a better chance of finding signs of sexual assault and taking steps to halt it when students won’t.”

If someone is being harassed or knows someone that is threatened, Kravitz said to contact an authority figure that he or she feels can help them.

“They can contact the police, a chair, a department,” Kravitz said. “Anyone in authority.”

Further information on sexual assault, stalking and anonymous reporting can also be found on the YSU Title IX webpage.