New program offers consent education

Sonoma State University is now accepting applications through May 3 for the Consent and Respect Education Students (CARES) program that will be starting in the 2019-2020 academic year. 

The program is a one-year commitment where students will receive one unit of internship credit both semesters to participate in intersectional social justice projects and engage in campus outreach and program planning. 

Susan Pulido, a confidential advocate in the department of health and wellness at Sonoma State, wants to join a team of students whose goal is to end sexual violence on campus through awareness and education. 

“We want to create a culture of consent and respect on campus. That’s going to involve programming and these students going into classrooms, meeting with student clubs and organizations and fraternity and sorority life,” said Pulido. 

Pulido has been at Sonoma State for just over a year and has done sexual violence and prevention work for about 15 years, both as a volunteer at a rape crisis center and a confidential advocate at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, Massachusetts. 

Being both an educator and an advocate, she wants the emphasis of the program to be on both prevention and education in sexual violence. 

Pulido wants to emphasize the value of peer-based education and how it has more of an impact on students being informed about what consent means and how rape culture can be explained through the eyes of a student, rather than a professional.

“I’m a staff person at the university. I think there’s going to be more buy-in when it’s peer-to-peer and I think it’s heard better,” said Pulido. 

Pulido is looking for students who represent a positive image for the campus community, as well as those who are from marginalized populations and have a passion for educating others on consent, sexual violence and prevention. 

Even though this is a pilot program, she wants to be able to adapt to new ideas and to see what the program can hold for the future. 

She wants students to create their own presentations and projects, allowing them the creative freedom to present awareness and education in meaningful ways to university classes, fraternities and sororities, and athletics. 

“I want people who are passionate and who are wanting to create this culture of care and respect. I want students who this is meaning to, to do this,” said Pulido. 

Counseling and Psychological Services, faculty from the Department of Women and Gender Studies and undergraduates have helped her to jumpstart the program. 

Sexual assault and rape culture continue to be an ever-present issue on campus, and now that hearing procedures are being allowed for sexual assault cases, this is a step in the right direction for the accused to take responsibility for their actions. However, Pulido says this can also present a challenge.

“I think that for survivors, a hearing process can be a difficult thing,” said Pulido. “So as an advocate, I’m going to do everything I am able to do to help students through that process.”  

The number of timely warnings being issued also causes some concern due to the fact that they are not issued if the incident involves acquaintances on campus. 

Rather, timely warnings are issued so that students can avoid being a victim, and the warnings have ripple effects. Pulido is okay with timely warnings not being issued if there is not any risk to the campus community.

“If students are in a situation where they are acquaintances and they know one another, and there is really no risk to the campus community because this is something that happened between these two people, then I do not feel like a timely warning has to be issued because it has an incredible impact on the survivor,” said Pulido. 

Despite the issues the campus has with sexual assault and violence, Pulido hopes to gain traction with CARES and to make sure that education and awareness on consent and sexual violence can be more publicized through the minds of students who are passionate about these issues.

Pulido will stop at nothing to create a culture of respect, consent, and good nature on campus. 

“I love what I do. I leave my office every day and this nurtures my soul, the work that I do,” she said.