University’s 20:1 Program attracts Department of Defense attentionTweet
With the current scrutiny by Congress into what some have termed a sexual assault crisis in the military, a recent visit to Binghamton University by the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention Team to learn about its 20:1 Program carries heightened significance.
In late April, the DOD team of military and civilian members, led by United States Marine Corps Colonel Mary H. Reinwald, deputy director for Prevention and Victim Assistance, and U.S. Army Major John Ruckauf, prevention operations officer, came to campus for three days to learn about Binghamton’s 20:1 sexual assault prevention program – a best practice they might incorporate into the military.
“We recognized that we don’t have all the answers,” Reinwald said, “but we have shifted our focus from training to prevention.
“This is a huge culture shift for all the services,” she said. “The esteem that the American public holds for the military is tremendous, but it’s a huge responsibility and sexual assault is a stigma and we won’t tolerate it anymore. It starts with the culture change.”
The DOD team is reaching out to college campuses to learn about best practices, well-respected programs and new ideas. Binghamton’s 20:1 Program, mentioned recently by the DOD at a White House briefing as a best practice, rose to the top and the trip to Binghamton was the team’s first to any college campus.
The DOD team is working to reinvigorate sexual assault prevention in the military and found the 20:1 Program while doing research. “We came upon 20:1 and are really interested,” said Ruckauf. “A majority of the sexual assaults that are being reported in the military are ‘peer-on-peer.’ We’re looking to what you’re doing and might try to adapt it. Peers see the interaction and allow it to occur, so we’re looking for more emphasis in our military program. Our intent is to create a national benchmark program.”
“Each of us deal with young people at the early stages of their careers and depend upon our ability to create a community and a sense of belonging so they can thrive,” Brian Rose, vice president for student affairs, told the DOD team. “Sexual assault is an interrupter of that and a challenge to us … a vexing problem. We’re eager to learn what we can from you and delighted to share what we’ve come up with. We hope it takes us both to a better place.”
The military is dealing with a lot of well-ingrained ideas and perceptions, Reinwald said, and the DOD hopes to turn that around. “When coming back from a war, discipline can often lapse and the little things build up to the broader picture,” she said. “We have some significant challenges because of the scope − culture, geography, preconceived notions – but there are a lot of similarities between military and university settings.”
“We’re marrying some of the research that our target population is the 18-24 year-old group and these people are in transition with all kinds of things happening,” said Ruckauf. “They’re moving from one set of social norms to another, trying to fit in, a lot of things are similar. So let’s think out of the box in how we address that age group and transitions.”
“We will be curious what you learn, and if the information is transferable across the institutions we would like to see some sharing in the future,” Rose said.
Binghamton University’s 20:1 Program started in 2004, when the University’s fraternity community saw the need to change the culture concerning sexual assault. Since then, nearly 100 fraternity peer educators from diverse groups have volunteered or interned to educate other men on issues of sexual assault prevention, including possible sexual assault situations, the definition of consent and bystander behavior. They selected the name 20:1 because approximately 20 women per hour are sexually assaulted in the United States.
“Our young men at the beginning really took ownership,” said Dara Raboy Picciano, senior counselor with the University Counseling Center and co-founder of the 20:1 Program, which she now co-coordinates with Randall Edouard, EOP director. “They really see that this is an important program and they’ve worked very hard to create a culture change.”
“You cannot have a program like this survive over 10 years without absolute support,” Edouard said. “That is a very important aspect and we appreciate it and understand that the work we do is making an impact.”
While on campus, the DOD team “saw three of our training components, two presented by our 20:1 peers − actual and not staged − one to a sorority and one to IFC fraternity men,” Raboy Picciano said. “They were very impressed by our program and with the peer educators. I think the three days was a great experience because they clearly were impressed and talking about continued collaboration and ways we could partner in the future.”
Three of the original 20:1 peers, who Raboy Picciano called visionaries and who now live in New York City, also traveled to Binghamton to meet with the visitors. “The DOD had asked us how we were able to engage men, and particularly fraternity men. They wanted to talk to students about that and what better way than with some of the original men,” said Raboy Picciano. “They were really surprised that 10 years later we’re still in contact with them and they’re still so invested in the program.
“The majority of those who go through the program now still grab on to the passion of those original three,” Raboy Picciano said. “We have 20:1 graduates who still make referrals to the University Counseling Center because they are still first responders for the University, and our 20:1 members actively recruit replacements for the internships because they believe it’s important for their organizations to participate.
“I even receive e-mails from graduates who say their 20:1 internship experience was some of the most important work they’ve done.”
Reinwald said the military loses a lot of victims through its laborious reporting process, yet they bring strong support for victims to the table. “Support for victim assistance might be where we can help you. We’re doing the best job there in terms of policies and programs,” she said. “We have a safe help line and a mobile app that just won an award as app of the year from the American Telemedicine Association, and we have a moderated victim-to-victim chat room. We talk to victims on a regular basis. When you look in the eyes of a victim and realize the lifelong impact, you know you’ve got to do better.”
Reinwald, whose office regularly briefs the White House on the team’s initiatives and progress, learned from Binghamton’s Interpersonal Violence Prevention Coordinator Jessica Krohn about the circle of 6 app that allows a person to identify a circle of people who will help if a ride or an intervention of some kind is needed. “You just made our trip even more worthwhile,” said Reinwald.
Raboy Picciano said a number of possibilities exist for collaboration in the future. “We started to talk about the possibility of them wanting to use parts of our program when they create their prevention program,” she said. “We also talked about the possibility of us doing a webinar for their military branches or the DOD having a conference of experts, perhaps virtual, that we would be invited to present at.
In addition, recent meetings between Raboy Picciano, Edouard and representatives from the Air Force ROTC program at Cornell that Binghamton Universtiy students can participate in have centered on a 20:1 pilot program for ROTC cadets to be implemented for the 2013-14 academic year.
“This is thrilling for us, to be part of something this big is exciting,” said Raboy Picciano. “One of the things the colonel kept talking about was how the military was in the forefront of integration and how now they want to take the lead on sexual assault prevention throughout the nation. To be part of that process and part of a culture change that could happen in something as big as the military and then nationwide would be an honor to be part of for 20:1 and Binghamton University.”