March 9, 2009
Students sought for interactive theater to address sexual assault, violence
Sexual assault is no laughing matter. However, the Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP) is seeking University of Iowa students to participate in a new project that uses drama and humor to help people feel more comfortable talking about uncomfortable topics like sexual assault and stalking.
RVAP is looking for students who wish to help establish its new peer education program called I-SITE or Iowa Student Interactive Theatre Experience.
Although I-SITE uses some theatrical techniques, there are a large variety of other valuable skills to be gained from participation, including public speaking, event planning, public relations, interpersonal communication, violence prevention, victim advocacy and teamwork, said RVAP Forum Theatre Coordinator Jamie Schlote.
"I-SITE uses fun forum theater techniques to facilitate authentic discussions with audiences about violence in the campus community," Schlote said. "I-SITE educators will learn these skills while entertaining and engaging UI audiences at the same time."
Opportunities for class credit or volunteer credit may be possible. All majors are strongly encouraged to apply, and no theater experience is necessary. Although UI students are encouraged to apply, anyone in the 18 to 25 age demographic can apply.
"A big focus of I-SITE is to educate students about the University of Iowa's new sexual misconduct policy," Schlote said. "But more generally, the program is to educate about sexual assault, stalking, consent, gender stereotypes, homophobia and partner violence and get students to think about how they can intervene in potentially unhealthy situations, either for themselves or for their friends."
Schlote said that this is a new approach to prevention education.
"This kind of forum theatre is typically more effective and popular with college students, since it's styled to be more of a discussion rather than a lecture," Schlote said.
The program is funded through the Flagship Campus Grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women that Iowa schools received to make campuses safer. RVAP will implement a program similar to the University of Northern Iowa's SAVE Forum Actors or Students Against a Violent Environment.
The group plans to start meeting the week after spring break. Schlote said she currently has five female students who are involved. She would like to double that number and include men.
"Men who participate will have opportunities to be positive role models and won't necessarily be cast as perpetrators," Schlote said.
Peer educators will be interviewed by I-SITE staff, complete a background check and participate in a brief RVAP training as part of their preparation. The time commitment for educators will be approximately two hours each week, in addition to programs scheduled.
Schlote said they hope to begin presenting programs next fall in residence halls, classrooms and at on-campus events.
"I-SITE's not a wacky 'Whose-Line-Is-It-Anyway?' kind of program. But at the same time, it's not a super-serious dramatic thing either," Schlote said. "I see it more as just another tool for education, and one that happens to also be entertaining."
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500