MSU Billings’ Phoenix Center hosts the third annual Not In Our State Sexual Assault Summit
September 8, 2014
Carmen Price, University Relations, 657-2269
Triniti Halverson, Student Health Services, 657-2157
Open to the public, the two-day conference will be held Sept. 19-20 on the MSUB university campus, 1500 University Drive
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Montana State University Billings will hold a statewide summit on sexual assault in September.
The third annual Not In Our State summit will be held Sept. 19-20 on the MSUB university campus, bringing together leading experts on sexual assault to provide training and tools to successfully investigate and adjudicate cases of sexual violence, as well prevention strategies.
Organized by the MSUB Phoenix Center — an advocacy and education program for students who have experienced sexual violence — the summit hopes to inspire and empower Montana universities and colleges to strengthen and shape campus policies and serve as an aggregate space for educational materials and resources focused on sexual violence.
Sessions and workshops at the two-day conference will discuss topics including rape culture, prevention, prosecution and victim services.
“The goal is that people will walk away with more tools on how to prevent sexual violence and best support survivors,” Triniti Halverson, health educator and student health services victims advocate with the MSUB Phoenix Center, said. “Our presenters and workshops will provide more access to the resources that are out there for survivors and responders.” Halverson said schools nationwide are in the process of rewriting or have already written their sexual assault policies, procedures and prevention education programs to meet standards set forth in the 2013 Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, or Campus SaVE Act.
“Recent research shows that about 20 to 25 percent of college women are victims of an attempted or completed sexual assault during their time in college,” Halverson said. “The same applies to 15 percent of men.”
Over the course of the last year, the federal government has focused unprecedented attention on sexual misconduct, initiating in July investigations into 76 higher education institutions over concerns about how they handled sexual assault cases on campus.
The White House further signaled its support for the issue this year through the formation of the Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault. Its goal is to help schools improve policies and protocol for preventing and dealing with sexual misconduct so they comply with the Campus SaVE Act.
“Institutions of higher learning across the country must be absolutely tireless in their determination to fully and effectively respond to reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment on their campuses,” Chancellor Mark Nook said. “We take the issue very seriously at MSUB and want our students and community to feel safe and supported.”
A featured speaker at the conference, Montana’s Attorney General Tim Fox has also made the issue of sexual violence a main focus after the University of Montana was thrust into the national spotlight in 2012 when a federal investigation was launched into how Missoula and the university handled sexual assaults.
“Taking the lessons learned in Missoula, we will make greater resources available throughout Montana to improve the way prosecutors, victims’ advocates and investigators handle sexual assault cases,” Fox said in a July 9 guest editorial for the Missoulian.
“Ultimately,” he wrote, “Our goals are to bring the guilty to justice, protect the innocent, dispel the myths that seek to blame female victims, and make sure victims receive the compassion and justice they deserve."
Also headlining the conference is Heather Imrie, director of program development at Catharsis Productions.
Imrie has created and presented sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, sexual harassment, victim blaming and bystander intervention training to universities, crisis centers and military installations around the world.
In addition to the keynote presenters, the conference will also feature many student-led workshops and presentations for student leaders, residence assistants and members of student government from Montana universities. Discussions will focus on student coalitions and peer education about enthusiastic consent, bystander intervention and the empowerment model of advocacy.
While the conference will be aimed primarily toward students and administrators, breakout sessions will be offered to community members who are new to the subject of sexual violence. Titled “Starters Track,” participants will gain an understanding of sexual violence, the prevalence, societal issues surrounding the issues and how to best support survivors and be agents of change.
The opening reception on Friday will feature an art exhibit in the Northcutt Steele Gallery from 4:30-6:15 p.m., featuring works of current or former MSUB student artists that address feelings of both oppression and empowerment.
Registration for the summit is open to the public. Registration for students is free and $50 for non-students. The deadline to register is Monday, Sept. 15 by 5 p.m.
For more information and a detailed conference schedule and list of speakers, visit the event’s website or call 657-2157.
The Phoenix Center, launched earlier in the year, is a campus program that is committed to providing support and advocacy for students who have experienced sexual violence and to leading the campus toward the reduction and eradication of sexual violence through education and awareness.