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Monday, February 26, 2024

New sexual assault prevention measures will launch at UF in Fall

UF students and employees will have access to a new app and trainings

This Fall, two new sexual harassment prevention measures are coming to UF: a revamped sexual assault prevention training for incoming students and an app to aid students and employees who need sexual assault resources. 

The new training and app — led by the Office for Accessibility and Gender Equity — aim to educate the UF population on sexual harassment, methods of reporting sexual misconduct and tools to avoid dangerous situations. 

“We understand that preventing sexual-based discrimination and harassment and interpersonal violence is complex and multifaceted. So, it requires a more comprehensive, holistic approach,” Jessica Baker, the Office for Accessibility and Gender Equity engagement and prevention coordinator, said.

The Office for Accessibility and Gender Equity plays a larger role in ensuring equal opportunity for all students through addressing violations to Title IX and the Americans with Disabilities Act — which are both federal civil rights laws that prohibit sex-based or disability-based discrimination.

The office’s new mandatory Fall training for incoming students will work to improve sexual harassment education through four key tenets: understanding consent, identifying behavior that contributes to interpersonal violence, incorporating bystander intervention and observing how personal identity and inclusion affect relationships. 

New trainings will also be made available for UF employees on sexual assault prevention and understanding approaches to disclosures of harm. 

Launching in August, UF students and employees will also have access to a new app meant to equip users with emergency and support resources on campus or in the greater Gainesville community. 

The app will contain various features to help students prevent unsafe sexual encounters. Functions on the app include a GPS-location contact alert and a “time to leave” tool, which allows the user to send his or herself a fake text or call to leave an uncomfortable situation. 

“The whole point of this app is to put these resources in people’s hands so that they don’t have to remember a website,” Baker said. “It’s all right there in an easy-to-get format so that when people are in need, they have quick and simple access to these resources.” 

In an email to students in May, Vice President of Student Affairs D’Andra Mull, Ph.D., referred to the Fall initiatives as a “proactive approach to prevention.” 

The development of new campus resources to prevent sexual assault and harassment came after a 2019 survey found nearly one-thirdone third of UF undergraduate female students experienced nonconsensual sexual contact by force or inability to give consent. 

Nationally, 81% of women and 43% of men experience a form of sexual harassment of assault in their lifetime, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

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The primary approach the Office for Accessibility and Gender Equity took to address the results of the 2019 survey was through hiring Jessica Baker, the engagement and prevention coordinator for the office. 

In addition to the comprehensive sexual assault measures launching in fall, Baker leads the Gender Equity Student Advisory Board — a 19-student panel that helps create new gender equity and accessibility-related policies. 

As a way to act on her passion for gender issues, Marina Bolser, a 23-year-old health education and behavior senior, joined the board for the 2021-2022 school year. She hopes to address issues such as sexual discrimination in academic settings during her time on the board. 

“This is a way that I can actually turn my opinions and beliefs into real action,” Bolser said. “I can influence things in my small corner of the world and feel a little bit less powerless because even small change is change.” 

Contact Makiya Seminera at Follow her on Twitter @makseminera.

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Makiya Seminera

Makiya Seminera is a UF international studies and Arabic senior, with a minor in mass communication. She's currently the editor-in-chief of The Alligator, but has previously served as university administration reporter, The Avenue editor, social media manager and opinion editor. She also serves as managing editor for Florida Political Review. Over summer, she interned with The State in Columbia, South Carolina, as a politics & government reporting intern.

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