At the University of Rhode Island the P.L.E.A.S.E program has been presenting to URI 101 classes about relationship violence, sexual assault and stalking for the past 12 years.
The group is located within the Women’s Center, and is made up of volunteers.
Racine Amos, the coordinator of Violence Prevention and Advocacy Services, said that these presentations have always been facilitated by students and are the first introductions that first-year students have to interpersonal violence and consent.
“For me that’s really important because for students to get the message from other students, it makes it more salient for them,” Amos said.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), women ages 18 to 24 in college are three times more likely than the one out of every six women in general to experience sexual violence. Male college students of the same age group are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted than non-students. These presentations have been a long standing tradition so that freshman can be educated on topics that statistically include them.
“Even though we know there can be victims regardless of gender identity, predominantly in our society it is mostly women so making sure [students] know where to go for support is important,” Amos said.
There are advocates in the office to help students who are triggered by the presentation. Amos said. Sometimes if students are triggered, they leave the building. Students can also put on their evaluation sheet that they felt triggered and would like to talk to someone from the Women’s Center.
This year, there are 20 students from every major and year facilitating these presentations. The student presenters are educating 140 classes and thousands of freshman.
The program works alongside the University College for Academic Success on the presentation every year. Amos said that for the past three years, UCAS has approved of the content.
Recently, non-consensual pornography, or revenge porn, has been added to the presentations along with Title IX.
“We are always looking to see what is going on in society,” Amos said, “that’s why we added the revenge porn. Just to make sure we’re being as global as we can and addressing the issues.”
Olivia Ferreira, a sophomore at URI and a member of the P.L.E.A.S.E program said that the presentations go over things such as how to be an active bystander, interpersonal abuse, signs of relationship abuse and the different resources on campus.
“We have a lot of interactive videos and games to get people interacting with the information so that they’re not just sitting there and soaking it up, because it can be pretty heavy,” Ferreira said. “We want to make it as serious as possible without it being super triggering for people.”
Ferreira is from Massachusetts and said that her high school never covered sex education.
“Coming [to URI], it was really refreshing to see not only sex education, but what interpersonal abuse is,” she said. “At my high school, no one heard about it or talked about it.”
Amos said that the P.L.E.A.S.E members deserve a lot of credit. “It’s a lot of work,” she said.
The presentations are not mandated by the University, but Amos highly recommends that all URI 101 classes attend.
“The presentations are not to scare people but more to show them that this is a problem, and to show them that what they may think isn’t sexual assault, is sexual assault,” Ferreira said.