o-peereducators

The first time I told my parents about my abuse I did not receive the kind of support I needed.

I was told it was my fault. I really did not know who to reach out to about what I was going through, especially when I was away from my home country and living in the world of strangers. But luckily I found a space – the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Center for Advocacy, Response and Education – which gave me the support and resources that I really needed to be on the right path of healing.

CARE has been on campus since 2017. When they started their ambassador program, I immediately wanted to be a part of it so that I would be able to help survivors in a better way. Being a CARE ambassador gave me a chance to be more involved on campus, and it allowed me to spread awareness about sexual assault prevention and dating/domestic violence by hosting various events such as toxic relationship bingo night with fun prizes to raise awareness on toxic relationships through music, which we all love. These events also helped us send out word about the existence of CARE, which not a lot of people knew about.

After the incident with FIJI, we ambassadors really wanted to spread the word about CARE and make sure all the students on our campus knew about the resources we were offering. Many people do not know this, but CARE is a confidential space that supports students by facilitating their needs academically, providing them safety options or directing them to the right resources for their mental health.

But as an ambassador, I felt like I wasn’t making the kind of changes I was hoping to make. That is when I applied to be a Huskers CARE Peer Educator. It was an opportunity for me as a survivor to make sure that no one ever has to be in the position I had to be in and have to go through experiences that I went through. It was an opportunity for me to make a difference on campus and make sure that incoming students are aware of the right ways to prevent being harmed and maybe help and support people who have been harmed.

The peer educator program is a pilot program that CARE started this semester; they adopted the script from Michigan State University where it was first initiated. The Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence, also known as SARV, workshop is a program that focuses mainly on first-year/freshman students here at UNL.

Being a peer educator makes me feel empowered because this opportunity is letting me connect with freshman students who are quite new to college life. It has led me to better handle situations that are challenging and deal with individuals who have different opinions than me or just different perspectives in a calm and patient manner. I have been able to be a better listener and support survivors in every way possible.

This program is not only helping students on campus, but it also has helped me be a better speaker and facilitator. We conduct these workshops on a daily basis for two hours, and our aim is not to lecture but rather have a meaningful and thoughtful two-way conversation with the students.

Our goal is to make sure that the students who attend these workshops have a better understanding of healthy and unhealthy realtionships, sexual assault, sexual harrassement, sexual exploitation and sexual violence as well as dating and domestic violence. They will have a better understanding on how to deal with bystander situations.

My experience as a peer educator has led me to be a better person who speaks on difficult situations like sexual assualt. These workshops will help us all prevent sexual assault and provide resources to survivors or people who need them.

Personally, I feel the more students engaged and active in the discussions, the better the outcome will be within our college community. SARV workshops are a great step toward ending the rape culture on campus and removing the stigma around talking about sexual violence, because it can happen to anyone by anyone regardless of their gender.

As students, I think it is important that we know how to prevent a dangerous situation, because learning about sexual assault prevention will not only prevent the violence but will also help us be a better supporter to the individuals who have been impacted by it.

These workshops may be focused on first-year students, but anyone can request them regardless of which year they are in, because it is a very crucial and important topic to be aware of.

All in all, this is an ongoing experience for me, and I am grateful for the opportunity to make a difference on our campus. This program is a step towards reducing the stigma around sexual assualt and rape culture as a whole. I do hope people come forward in the future to be a part of this amazing program and help our college community.

Malvika Vijju is a junior women’s and gender studies major. Reach her at malvikavijju@dailynebraskan.com.