The rapid spread of the coronavirus has prompted many college and university campuses to swiftly transition to online education and the virtual provision of health and wellbeing services. As a sexual and gender-based violence prevention professional you may be feeling uncertain about how to proceed in this shifting campus landscape. We want to remind each other, dear colleagues, that our work to build skills related to healthy relationships and consent matters more now than, perhaps, ever before.
Let’s talk about consent in the moment of COVID-19:
- Consent starts in knowing that our bodies belong to us and we have authority over our own bodies;
- Consent requires we think about what we are doing and how we are doing it and how our behavior impacts others;
- Consent emphasizes how we should be free to determine, consistently and repeatedly: if and how we touch one another; and if, when and where and how often or how long we choose to interact--whether we’re connecting for work, social, or sexual activity.
- Consent recognizes that methods of communication, affection, stimulation, and engagement that were once consensual are subject to continual, reflexive re-evaluation, revision, and revocation.
Here on the precipice of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), it is clear: our work in educating about consent and promoting healthy behaviors, self-regulation, and self-care practices remain not only relevant but, in fact, crucial at this time. And yet, with campuses moving to a virtual environment, or encouraging social distancing, for many, the SAAM plans that campuses spent months preparing are back on the drawing board. If so, we’re here to help.
Here are 10 ways you can engage your campus community in sexual and gender-based violence prevention in the virtual environment:
- Host a Twitter Chat to raise awareness, educate, and engage your followers. Advertise your Twitter account and the Twitter chat on your other existing forms of social media. Designate a specific timeframe to begin and end your chat. Typically, a chat time of one hour works well. Prepare a list of questions to ask your followers. Prepare some facts to share. Be sure to designate a hashtag for your chat or chat series and include it you’re your questions and in every related tweet. Encourage participants to please use the hashtag, which allows others to read the conversation later, if they were not able to participate in real-time. Retweet participant answers, as appropriate, and like participant tweets, and thank everyone for participating at the end
- Host a virtual event using the Facebook Live feature by streaming content to your Facebook audience in real-time. This is a great option if you’ve scheduled a speaker as a part of your event. Participants may watch, listen, and/or comment throughout your video. The Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (WCSAP) offers free discussion guides to help get you started
- Host an online pledge drive using any social media platform, designate a theme or call to action and a hashtag. You may participate in existing online pledge efforts or tailor this effort to an existing program or slogan for your community. Here are some pledge drives already in action:
- Curate links to online articles, blog posts, or other resources to help educate your followers on a certain issue. Highlight a “SAAM Resource of the Week” on your webpage and link to the full list
- Participate in the #30DaysofSAAM Instagram contest to engage others in a fun and creative way. Follow @NSVRC on Instagram to get daily prompts during the month of April and then respond to them with a photo using #30DaysofSAAM and tag @NSVRC
- Hold a virtual movie screening and online discussion. Your college or university library may offer a tool to screen movies for free online, or you can simply encourage people to watch the same film on their preferred provider and then join for a Facebook Live facilitated video discussion or to use Facebook or Twitter for an online chat. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center offers ideas for movies to screen during SAAM
- Host an online trivia night. WCSAP offers SAAM Bingo cards and a blank template. Consider hosting this virtually, using Zoom Meeting, Facebook Live, or other video streaming platforms. The stakes should be low, as, depending upon the activity, it may be challenging to ensure fair play using online methods; however, if the goal of the activity remains focused on education and prevention, it matters less who wins. Consider offering digital “swag” to the winners. If your organization sells merchandise, the prize could be a discount code.
- Deliver digital activities and tools by, for example making SAAM coloring sheets or a healthy relationship activity book available for download
- Host your own social media content contest on a certain topic. For example, if you were planning on hosting an awareness quilt activity, ask followers to use Canva or other content creation services to create an Instagram post. With enough participants and intentional posting, you can create a virtual quilt on Instagram, or someone can combine the images into a larger image that may be shared via email, saved as a PDF, featured on your institution’s website.
- Plan for accessibility in all of your on-line and digital efforts to help ensure every community member has the opportunity to engage. Here’s a blog to get you started and additional tips for making online events accessible from the University of Minnesota
We hope these tips will help you deliver a SAAM that is energized, engaged, healthy, and safe for every member of your campus. We’re proud to be a part of this resilient, compassionate, creative community of professionals.