Chances are that every female student who attends Cal Poly has either experienced sexual assault firsthand or at least knows a friend, roommate or acquaintance that has. It is also true that every male student at Cal Poly probably knows someone who has been affected by sexual assault, or has maybe even experienced it himself.
SAFER Men is a new Cal Poly program run by Student Life and Leadership aiming to bring awareness and education to men about becoming allies in the fight to prevent sexual assault.
“Sexual assault is seen as a men’s issue as well as a women’s issue. Sexual assault hurts people men care about, hurts the reputation of all men and is experienced by some men,” said Dr. Shawn Burn, Ph.D., Professor and Associate Chair of the Psychology and Child Development Department. Burn works with SAFER Men on developing content for their presentations.
SAFER Men was created by SAFER, which stands for Sexual Assault Free Environment Resource Program, with the knowledge that most Cal Poly men understand how damaging sexual assault can be, and just need the right tools to become active in risk reduction. Both programs share in the same purpose, but SAFER Men hopes to get their message across specifically to men by providing information and presentations by their own peer group.
“The majority of men at Cal Poly think sexual assault is a terrible thing, but they need to take a stand about it,” Burn said.
Some of what the program teaches men is that they can prevent sexual assault by identifying other men who are at risk for sexual assault, while at the same time showing survivors of assault that all men are not the enemy and that they can have a big part in prevention.
Since its creation last summer, SAFER Men has given peer-led presentations to WOW groups and residence halls on campus, and launched marketing campaigns to raise awareness. They eventually hope to present to various men’s groups within the community, including athletic teams and fraternities.
“I’m hoping that SAFER Men will be a presence at events that support the fight against sexual assault, ” Burn said.
SAFER Men will support and participate in various SAFER and Women’s Center activities on campus, like the Run to Remember on Nov. 8 from 5 to 7 p.m. The 5 kilometers on-campus run/walk is being held to commemorate survivors of sexual assault and to raise money to fund Remember Week and other SAFER and Women’s Programs events during the year.
“I’ve been very excited about the integration of men into this program because it’s really very positive and I think the SAFER program is becoming much more visible on campus,” said Dr. Ken Barclay, director of Student Life and Leadership.
One of SAFER Men’s biggest priorities right now is recruiting volunteers to give presentations and work on marketing campaigns to help them reach a larger number of men on campus. But Burn suggests that students can even help out in smaller ways.
“It could be wearing a SAFER Men button. Anything that helps create a campus norm,” Burn said.
SAFER Men will be holding a Bagel Brunch orientation meeting for men interested in volunteering and internship opportunities on Friday from 11 a.m. to noon in the Women’s Center. They will also have a Halloween booth set up during UU Hour on Oct. 26 to sell T-shirts and recruit new volunteers.