NJCASA’s mission includes elevating the voices of service providers and communities.  We believe these voices will not only bring about social change, but create spaces for victims to thrive.  The ‘Partners in Prevention’ series will feature voices throughout the state working to create safer communities for all.  Today’s post focuses on one community college’s efforts to cultivate student engagement and create positive social change. 

Attention on the epidemic of sexual violence on college campuses has reached an all-time high. Research has found 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while on campus. Concerns have been expressed at the highest level of government, and institutions nationwide are partnering up with local community agencies to combat this public health crisis.

Passaic County Community College (PCCC) is a passionate collaborator in this effort to prevent, address, educate, and raise awareness surrounding sexual violence.  The newly-formed Center for Violence Prevention at PCCC is building the capacity of the college community with education, services, support, and resources on issues of gender-based violence, thanks to the recently received Grant to Reduce Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking on Campus from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Violence against Women (OVW).

Designing programs around primary prevention at a two-year nonresidential college looks a bit different than a traditional four-year residential institution. Many of our students are transfer students, do not live on campus, have other work-related responsibility, and/or are single parents with a variety of family obligations. Programming and continued education surrounding these topics must be implemented strategically in order help our students become aware and engaged.

One approach to developing comprehensive prevention programs is to collaborate with local community agencies.  An example of our prevention work started in April 2016 during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Working with a local community service provider, we hosted a series of “lunch-and-learns” to start the conversation regarding sexual violence. Topics included debunking the myths of consensual sex, bystander behavior, and dynamics of intimate partner violence.

In partnership with another community agency, a SAAM Day of Action pledge table was set up in the Center for Student Success where students, faculty, and staff made a pledge against sexual assault by signing a teal ribbon to be displayed in the Student Affairs Office.

In the coming months we are hosting several workshops and educational seminars supporting primary prevention and bystander intervention. We’re also working with student leaders to start a sexual assault, dating violence, and domestic violence student-led prevention program.

We understand one person can make a difference, but together we can change the culture on campus—one step at a time.

Simaza S. Ishak is the Program Coordinator at Passaic County Community College’s Center for Violence Prevention. Simaza has been with the center since its opening in January 2016, she manages the daily operations, grants supporting the work of violence prevention, and supervises student interns. Her current interests include prevention efforts, advocacy, and feminist issues.  To maintain balance and focus, she likes to read, travel, and visit the beach during her downtime.