Protect U and Yours: keeping students safe on campus

On Monday, the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill was a gathering spot for South Jersey residents eager to learn about sexual violence on college campuses.

By ALISON LOWERY

The Sun

With the “Me Too” movement sweeping the nation, sexual assault is not the taboo subject it once was for victims, according to Hilary Platt, coordinator for the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Southern New Jersey’s division of Project SARAH.

“Of course, we still have growing pains and we have to learn how to grow into this movement,” Platt said.

As a free program, “Protect U and Yours” is an annual educational forum that aims to prevent sexual assault on college campuses by educating the public.

On Monday, April 30, the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill was a gathering spot for South Jersey residents eager to learn about sexual violence on college campuses through the “Protect U and Yours” initiative hosted by the JFCS.

A panel of experts engaged with parents and students, enlightening them about sexual assault, including how to handle situations involving sexual assault.

“You are not only the future generation but you are the now generation, and you are making the difference now and you are changing the rape culture,” Platt said. “Showing up here today is a step in the right direction … knowledge is power.”

Title IX Coordinator at Rowan University Bindu Jayne took the podium to talk about consent. Title IX protects more than just women and protects the gender of those submitting formal complaints at universities.

Jayne’s job, as well other Title IX coordinators’, is a university official who handles allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Jayne regularly helps students and has put academic accommodations in place to help victims of sexual assault, in addition to assisting victims in getting proper help. Every school has a Title IX coordinator who should be easily accessible, according to Jayne. She encourages all victims to speak up and seek help.

“Silence is not consent,” Jayne said.

A practitioner in the field for more than 10 years, Jayne has assisted many students who have requested her help in cases of sexual assault. She said she does not do this out of obligation, but because it is the right thing to do.

“Title IX is a floor for a college or university not a ceiling,” Jayne said.

Prevention Education Coordinator for Rutgers University in Camden Brady Root works to raise awareness and encourages people to go “deep” into the conversation of sexual violence. Root coordinates the SCREAM Theater program, where university students use interactive methods to convey new ways to solve interpersonal violence. One of her goals, along with the theater, is to highlight the role of bystanders and how they can help prevent act of sexual violence on campus.

“We really need to engage in a dialogue that lasts longer than one night or weekend of orientation,” Root said.

During the presentation, various tips and suggestions were given on how to help victims who have experienced sexual assault. According to Root, if someone has a friend on campus who confides in them about being sexually harassed or assaulted, it isn’t an opportunity to tell him or her what to do, but a chance to be supportive and provide her with the resources to get the help they need.

“No one is saying as a bystander, you can go out and be a superhero and make sure your campus is safe, that is unrealistic and no one should have that burden on their shoulders,” Root said.

Retired Police Chief of Paulsboro Chris Wachter, who has served as a security officer in Camden, weighed in to give some tips when traveling home and suggested students partner with a friend or take an Uber home and let friends and family know their location.

“Be proactive in your safety, look around you and pay attention,” Wachter said.

Platt advises everyone to educate themselves on the laws of consent, because without that knowledge, even with good intentions, someone may become a perpetrator or they may realize they are a victim.

For more information on the program or for any questions or concerns, go to https://jfcssnj.org/.