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Students Work To Supplement Bystander Education

Heights Staff

Published: Thursday, November 7, 2013

Updated: Thursday, November 7, 2013 03:11

Seeking to expand the Boston College Bystander Intervention Education beyond presentations, the program’s lead trainers Joseph Palomba, A&S ’15, and Andrea Giancarlo, CSOM ’15, along with graduate assistant Megan O’Hara, GSSW ’15, have begun to develop a program that will explore the concept of masculinity.

The Bystander program, under the umbrella organization of the Women’s Resource Center (WRC), boasts between 40 and 50 trainers each year who present strategies to prevent sexual assault and combat rape culture with various organizations on campus. In order to further this goal of fostering a culture in which rape and sexual assault can be discussed more openly on campus, Palomba hopes to open the conversation up to men.

“As an organization, we have 40 to 50 trainers, and I’d say under 10 are men,” he said. “So for me personally, it’s a direction I want to bring this program.” He hopes especially to bring the program to those without experience in these types of discussions. “The basic idea is not to preach to the choir, it’s to target the people who aren’t getting this message already,” he said.

For Palomba, the other men’s organizations on campus serve both as inspiration and possible partnership.

“A lot of solid men’s groups already exist, and a few that I’m still learning about, and so part of what I’m doing is just figuring out what those are, how they fit into the BC community and how my goals fit into what they do,” he said.

For instance, the Center for Student Formation’s Freshman League, which joins freshman males and junior and senior “captains,” or mentors, engages its members in the same types of conversation Palomba hopes to promote. “They discuss a lot of issues on campus, everything from faith to classes to everyday life here at BC,” Palomba said. “That’s a really good base, that’s the kind of environment I want to create, in order to continue that conversation, not just for the few captain junior and senior men and the freshmen men involved, but the whole population.”
Palomba also found himself galvanized by the “Deconstructing Masculinity” panel held every C.A.R.E. (Concerned About Rape Education) Week, during which several speakers facilitate a guided discussion concerning the meaning of masculinity in contemporary society. “I’ve been both my freshman and sophomore years, and I really loved it, but as I’ve talked to some of the people who run the event, it sometimes seems like that event exists in a vacuum,” Palomba said.

He considers the goal of the new program to bring this type of discussion to a wider audience, perhaps through the same type of guided discussion with various figures on campus. “As far as the program goes, I’m looking to involve all sorts of campus resources that already exist, to continue the discussions that they have in smaller, intimate settings in a larger, more casual setting so that men can be in on the discussion too,” he said.

Palomba used the controversy of the Boston College Confessions Facebook page’s infamous post No. 7122 as an example of the current state of ignorance.

“I think the reaction from people [about the post] is a really good indication of how little people know about the issue of sexual assault and rape on campus, on our campus in particular,” he said. “People live in this world of ‘this doesn’t happen here’ or ‘none of my friends would ever do this.’ It’s difficult to make the person in the post seem real. People picture rapists as people who jump out of bushes in the night. It’s hard to think of them as a part of our community.

“I had friends who’d never talked about this issue before, of rape and sexual assault, talking to me in class about it,” he said. “It shows that people all of the sudden see it as a real issue, something that can really happen. Even though it was a hoax, it’s a real issue, and this really happens on college campuses. It engages people into having that conversation. It demonstrates how little we know as a community, and how much there is left to gain and to learn by engaging in conversation.”
But Palomba acknowledges that these conversations won’t happen without the support of the BC community. “As a whole, it’s going to take a lot of work from a lot of different people, from faculty members and from a lot of different organizations, but I think that it really comes down to the students,” he said. “The program will only be what people make of it.”
“This isn’t really about me starting anything, it’s about having people on campus who really care about it, as well as people who are open to learning,” Palomba said.

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