It was Valentine’s Day when Christine Fiore stood before a crowd of several hundred people on the Oval at the University of Montana to recite the facts – that one in five college women still experience some form of dating violence.

Not only does it represent a national problem, Fiore said, but it’s a problem in the United States, and it’s a problem in Missoula, which isn’t immune to the nation’s social woes.

“We need to do something to change this,” Fiore told the crowd last month. “In 20 years, I don’t want to be asking for change. I want to be change.”

Fiore, a professor of psychology at UM who has spent 20 years researching violence against women, teamed up last summer with Danielle Wozniak, an associate professor in the School of Social Work, to help implement a new program addressing sexual violence on campus.

Known as Personal Empowerment Through Self Awareness, the university made the program mandatory for all students looking to register for the spring semester. By school accounts, more than 13,825 students had successfully completed the tutorial as of last month.

“I think the first iteration of the tutorial went really, really well,” Wozniak said on Tuesday. “Our aim was to educate and raise awareness, and create space for discourse. I think we’ve achieved that.”

The PETSA program included seven short videos focusing on Montana law as it relates to rape and sexual assault. It included the legal definition of consent and examined the motives of sexual predators, among other things.

The tutorial also welcomed feedback from students through an anonymous survey. The university has reviewed the comments and found them to be 4-to-1 in favor of the program and its message.

“Some people didn’t like the fact that it was mandatory,” Fiore said. “There was a bit of naïve complaining from some people saying they weren’t part of the problem. But this is a community problem, and the community is part of the solution.”

The University Council on Student Assault, which Wozniak chairs, recommended in 2011 that UM educate students on ways to reduce their risk of being assaulted or committing personal violence.

While other universities have created their own program, none met UM’s needs or standards.

Wozniak, along with Beth Hubble, who co-chairs the Women and Gender Studies program at UM, wrote the tutorial’s script and worked it over with a campus-wide team.

Nearly 14,000 students have taken the tutorial, and while feedback has been overwhelmingly supportive, Wozniak and Fiore believe the program must evolve to include more detail on bystander intervention while allowing for more discussion.

“One of the things we’re turning to is bystander intervention – empowering our whole community to take a role and make a difference,” Wozniak said. “The program was never designed to stand alone. It was a way to begin our intervention.”

Making room for further discussion wasn’t possible with 14,000 students needing to take the initial tutorial, Wozniak said.

But those students won’t have to take the program again. That makes it possible to engage in discussion with next year’s freshman class and new transfer students, who will have to take the program. It may also be incorporated into the wider curriculum.

“If students are saying, ‘I’ve never raped anyone so this isn’t for me,’ then we say it is for you and we need your help,” Wozniak said. “That kind of feedback isn’t helpful, but it does give us an idea that we have to communicate better that this is a community issue, not an issue with individual people. It’s about intervention.”

***

Later this month, UM also is hosting Victoria Banyard, a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of New Hampshire and a leading expert on the study and prevention of sexual violence.

While Banyard conducts research on the long-term consequences of trauma and interpersonal violence, she also has studied the criminal justice system’s response to sexual assault.

Among her work, “Bringing in the Bystander” remains a college relationship and sexual violence prevention program that educates bystanders to intervene before, during and after incidents of interpersonal violence.

“We may want to expand some of our own bystander intervention pieces,” Wozniak said. “It’s an educational piece to help people recognize the opportunity for change in the community and within their friendship groups.”

Banyard will give her free lecture, “Sexual Assault as a Societal Problem in America,” on March 25 at 8 p.m. in the George and Jane Dennison Theater.

She’ll also give a talk, “Who Will Help? Creating a Community Response to Sexual Violence Prevention,” at 3:10 p.m. in Room 123 of the Gallagher Business Building.

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

(11) comments

jacksommersby88
jacksommersby88

I can see both sides in the comment section here, though it does crack me up that you people complianing about this required class would be enraged if the writer had mentioned the Johnson rape trail in the article yet here you people are dragging it in!

Oh, and I've been hit on by several college women in the bar where I hang out. I politely refuse, telling them I'm too old for them. And they respond that they're tired of the immaturity and ultra-machismo of so many male college students -- lewd, crude, trying to grope them before a first date even, and thinking a first date justifies them being able to get in their pants. And, sorry, until the university starts having a problem with women sexually assaulting men, I'm all for this course. It ain't gonna kill you guys to attend it; you might even actually learn something.

Dubs
Dubs

14,000 people, will be interesting to see if the number of assaults drop or go up.

Dcmissoula
Dcmissoula

Just so the readers understand, i as a UM student was REQUIRED to take this stupid one sided course that was offensive to men. If we as students did not complete this course we were not allowed to register for the following semester. Forced...with out consent...raped.

Roger
Roger

Too bad UM doesn't have a men's studies program, which could counter all the anti-male propaganda and lies the radical feminists disseminate. But unfortunately, equality only works one way in the feminist world.

Kahlotus
Kahlotus

It's too bad that UM doesn't have a jobs program that you could enroll in so you wouldn't have to spend each and every day playing the role of the underprivileged white male victim. Seriously Roger, get a life.

Roger
Roger

I don't want a job - I'm doing fine without one. If you don't believe in equal treatment for everyone - including white males - then you have a problem, you're a bigot. I enjoy bringing up points that seem to enrage leftists and/or feminists - if you don't like it, lump it, as the saying goes.

Dcmissoula
Dcmissoula

well done roger, these lefties have no concept of irony or hypocrisy

montanamuralist
montanamuralist

No one condones rape that has any brain cell function. Nice effort at the U to counter the critics but the program is writeen by folks who are ignoring facts. Look at the false statements and actions at First Step during the recent trial. Look at the demonstration on the bridge last week "thanking the victim" who is no longer a victim by the way, for reporting something that apparently a jury felt was unwarranted. Nothing to so with athletics much as these groups would have us believe that, but rather the facts. The other issue is that these clowns writing this "educational tutorial" are saying it is myth there are false reports of sexual violence. That is a major issue and downgrades men. Promoting that kind of thinking is counter productive and unfair as it is proven there are false reports of sexual violence...to the tune of 25-30% of all reports. I would suggest the Missoulian ( and they will not do this) look in to that part of the tutorial and give us some facts and reasoning as to why that appears on their little quiz. If your going to tutor someone, at least give facts, don't manipulate information to fit your own agenda which is clearly what is happening here.....then when someone calls you on it do not say, well you just do not understand the facts. Easy answers when you are pushing your own agenda...we want the real truth and the truth is some women do make false reports or blow something out of proportion that was not meant as sexual violence by the male...disgusting people who will say anything to push their agenda is not what is needed at UM andy more than we need sexual violence.

Missoula Mom
Missoula Mom

Rape is horrid and reprehensible, however the only reason so many took it was that it was REQUIRED to be taken before you could enroll in classes. It is derogatory towards men, and as a female I was also appalled as I don't think it really addressed the root of the problem. Time for someone with some sense to start digging into the issue and really discussing the ways to possibly prevent rape, and the nurse from First Step, who wrote a false statement that a MPD detective proved was a lie should have NOTHING to do with any further dealings as her lies will make it harder for women to report and charge those who do actually abuse and rape women. Francouer did a disservice to those who truly need the help and guidance of a rape abuse crisis center, one that is not founded on lies to further her agenda.

justaguy
justaguy

From your comment I must assume that you have actually completed the PETSA program. Did you? I have completed the program and I did not find it derogatory towards men but it does make it clear that the VAST majority of rapes are perpetrated by men. I will admit that PETSA is not perfect but it is not terrible, either. You state that "someone with some sense" should "start digging into the issue" and then you vilify the program that is doing just that. PETSA was never intended to be 'the answer' but was intended as a starting point to engage the university in the dialogue to seek solutions to prevent this horrible crime. I am just curious, what have you done to address "the root of the problem"?

Dcmissoula
Dcmissoula

Justaguy, it was derogatory towards men, the fact that you missed it and are attempting to marginalize that fact, leads me to belive you are not a man at all.

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