Members of Keene State College’s Mentors for Violence Prevention (MVP) were honored on March 29 at a BACCHUS conference for their “Yes Means Yes: A Guide to Good Sex” orientation program.
“Yes Means Yes: A Guide to Good Sex” earned the Best Program award at the BACCHUS Netowork Conference held at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. According to MVP Peer Educator Emma Bass, MVP had strong competition. “There were programs from Harvard, Sacred Heart, all over New England,” Bass explained.
MVP members submitted their program into the conference and a panel selected the program. “Our [executive] board members submitted our program for consideration of the award. They reviewed everyone’s submissions and liked our program,” Bass said.
Along with MVP’s award for Best Program, Organization Advisor Forrest Seymour was selected as Best Advisor according to Bass.
Bass stated, “We submitted him for best advisor, and he won that.” Yes Means Yes is one of the many program options incoming students can choose from during orientation. Attendance for the program has exceeded expectations, according to MVP members. MVP advisory board member Johanna DeBari said, “The program is designed for the orientation for Keene State. We did it for three-hundred to three-hundred-and-fifty freshmen.”
The two-year-old program educates students about how they can have safe, consensual sex. “It’s a healthy sexuality program. Our main topic is consent, and how to have conversations about having consensual sex and promoting open communication,” explained program creator, DeBari.
The program takes a multimedia approach to explain its tenants, and also aims to make students comfortable with the content by using icebreakers. “We start out the program by playing the penis and vagina game, which is having them scream penis and vagina as loud as they can. The point is that freshmen are already feeling very vulnerable and coming into a program where you talk about sex is very intimidating. It sets the tone that it’s okay, we are creating a safe area for people to say what they want,” said DeBari.
DeBari continued, “The main tenant of this program is the ‘active bystander’ approach, giving people the tools to intervene somehow — such as calling the police or Campus Safety. We educate people and make them feel like they have power in their situation and power on their campus related to sexual violence and crimes on campus. It is a really prominent issue on all campuses.” DeBari explained MVP uses video, activities and discussion to educate students about healthy sexuality.
BACCHUS is an organization of peer education groups across the country which, “build skills in student leaders to address campus health and safety issues,” according to the BACCHUS website. The acronym BACCHUS stands for Boosting Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students. The New England conference was an opportunity for MVP to compare notes with other peer education groups and learn ways to improve their own program. Bass explained, “We spread out our members across all the seminars so we could all take notes. We listened to all these different people from different schools, and what their take was on all these issues.”
“We took away that we needed to utilize more social media. We created a public Facebook group and a Twitter [account] for MVP,” added Bass. MVP earned the award just before Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.
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