CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has hired a new assistant director for violence prevention, Michelle Bangen, and on Oct. 8 will hold a grand opening for its Survivor Advocacy and Resource Center.
Bangen has already met many people on campus to better understand what resources OSU offers, and to assess the current culture around sexual violence and other issues. At The Ohio State University, she led a nationally-recognized bystander intervention program called Buckeyes Got Your Back. Bangen said the key to convincing students to intervene in potentially escalating situations is to appeal to their core values.
“That way, what we’re asking you to do as a bystander is not far off from what you already value,” Bangen said, “so it becomes an easy ask for people, and empowers them to feel they have a stake in keeping their community safe.”
Bangen starts at a pivotal moment for Student Health Services, according to Rob Reff, director of the Alcohol, Drug and Violence Prevention Center.
“I wanted to make sure that we had expertise and strategic vision in both prevention and advocacy,” Reff said. “I could not be more pleased with the leadership that Bangen will bring to stop violence before it happens, and with the experience in trauma informed advocacy that Judy Neigbours, assistant director for the Survivor Advocacy and Resource Center, adds to our team.”
The OSU Advocacy Center for Survivors of Violence provides confidential and accessible services including a full-time advocate whose sole job is to listen to and support survivors, to help them navigate available resources, and ensure the survivor’s wishes and needs are respected.
The center will be housed in the Student Health Services Building, allowing for privacy and confidentiality, and will also put survivors within close proximity of trained sexual assault nurses if requested.
The grand opening of the center will be Thursday, Oct. 8, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Room 311 of Plageman Student Health Center. Speakers will include OSU President Ed Ray, sexual violence survivor and advocate Brenda Tracy, and ASOSU President Cassie Huber. Refreshments will be served. For more information about the Survivor Advocacy and Resource Center, visit studenthealth.oregonstate.edu/advocacy.
Bangen wants to have OSU students look at the bystander intervention programs from Ohio State, review the curricula and see which messages resonate, and infuse the values of Oregon State students. The fraternity population will be the first community approached to be trained and to implement a version of the bystander program.
“I value getting peers from within various communities to facilitate these conversations,” Bangen said. “It has a really positive impact when a fraternity brother can go in and speak to a group of men about how these issues are popping up in their community and how they can build their skill set to address them.”
One key to Bangen’s approach is to make sure that the focus is on helping and empowering all students, rather than trying to paint one group or gender as guilty or suspect.
“Rather than speaking to potential victims or potential perpetrators, we can talk to everyone as potential bystanders,” she said. “We need everyone to use the skills they have, and we as an institution need to help build that skill set.”