This summer, as Boston College’s class of 2018 prepared for its first year on the Heights, all members were required to complete not only AlcoholEdu—the online alcohol education program that has been required of new students for over 10 years now—but also Haven, a new program of a similar type focusing on sexual assault. Like AlcoholEdu, Haven is completed online and run by the D.C.-based education technology company EverFi. It covers issues such as the meaning of consent, the definition of “sexual assault,” and what constitutes a healthy relationship.
Although this is the first year that new students were required to complete both an online alcohol education program and a sexual assault education program separately, this is not the first time BC students have received some form of online sexual assault prevention training prior to arriving on campus. Previously, most of the information covered by Haven was contained within the AlcoholEdu program, but two years ago EverFi decided to expand the sexual assault content and make it into its own program.
According to Rob Buelow, associate director of partner education, EverFi decided to separate Haven to allow colleges the freedom to purchase either the sexual assault education, the alcohol education, or both, rather than only offering a joint program. In addition, the company wanted to make sure that they were sending the right message in their online programming.
“Having the program embedded within AlcoholEdu and having sexual assault strictly confined to an alcohol prevention program could potentially send the message that sexual assault is inextricably tied to alcohol and vice versa,” Buelow said. “These issues are connected, but we felt that they were enough standalone issues that they warranted their own individual programs.”
Buelow made clear, however, that in order not to downplay the interconnectedness of the issues, both programs continue to contain information from the other.
Haven is structured similarly to AlcoholEdu—it contains videos and interactive portions, as well as surveys and quizzes. It is broken down into sections, and users can save their progress and return to the program later. All in all, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour, according to associate director of the Office of Health Promotion Robyn Priest, and it should be completed by the time students arrive on campus.
“I think as a way of welcoming new people to the community, I feel like it sends an important message when the University says, ‘We think these issues are important, and therefore we require you to do something about this,’” Priest said.
Buelow explained that Haven was created and refined in conversation with the nation’s leading experts on sexual assault education and prevention. It attempts to communicate the information clearly and in a way which is most likely to stay with the students.
Haven opens with a video that cites the frequency of sexual assault on college campuses and explains that all students must play a role in making their campus a safe place.
“I think that’s a really empowering message, and it draws on the fact that we know that most students have really healthy attitudes and behaviors when it comes to relationships and hooking up,” Buelow said. “So, we don’t want to talk to students as being parts of the problem, we want to talk to students as being necessary parts of the solution.”
Other parts of the program ask students to give their personal views on relationships and safety. These surveys were designed with the intention of collecting data so that specific universities may then develop campus-specific programming to target the issues most prevalent at their schools. Buelow described this method as much more effective than “programming for the sake of programming.”
More than 350 colleges and universities are now using Haven, up from 200 last year. While Buelow is excited about the sharp increase in participation, he made clear that no one online education program will stop sexual assault on campuses, and complementary programming must always be present. Priest echoed this sentiment, remarking that any campus hoping to see an impact must develop a truly comprehensive set of programs.
Rachel DiBella, assistant director for Sexual Violence Prevention and Response, agrees that Haven is an important step toward making the entire community aware of the problems of sexual violence on campus and more willing to act. Her position at BC was created this summer and is geared toward providing a stronger focus on sexual assault prevention.
DiBella has played a role in adding a sexual assault education component to Welcome Week and has been working to ensure that all members of the class of 2018 complete Bystander Intervention training by the end of the year.
“I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a synergistic, strategic, and community-based approach to ending campus sexual violence,” she said in an email. “We must regard this as a community-wide issue that affects survivors, their friends and loved ones, bystanders—all of us. Thus, we must make sure that we’re reaching out through multiple programmatic efforts to enable everyone to call out problematic behavior, support those affected by sexual assault, and carry with them the belief that one survivor in our community is too many.”