IU students step up to create a Culture of Care

Guest post courtesy of Leslie Fasone, assistant dean for women’s and gender affairs in the Dean of Students Office at IU Bloomington.

Culture of Care. What is a culture of care and how do we create a community at IU where students, staff and faculty demonstrate care and concern for one another? Creating a Culture of Care is a tall order. It involves everyone. To show that you care isn’t always easy, especially when our calendars are full with classes, assignments, projects, leadership responsibilities, and activities with friends.

Earlier this week the White House’s first report for protecting students from sexual assault was released at notalone.gov. I spent Tuesday morning in my office combing through the document to see if we are on track here at IU. I am happy to say that we most certainly are. There are four main points identified in the report, three of which are recommendations for colleges and universities. First, identify the problem by conducting a campus climate survey. Second, develop and implement sexual assault prevention programs and work to engage men as allies. Last, effectively respond to sexual assault complaints.

We have students, staff and faculty throughout campus who work in each of these areas and have been working hard over the past several years to increase our efforts to decrease the number of sexual assault incidents that occur on campus. Approximately 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted during their collegiate experience (Fisher, Cullen & Turner, 2000). Although there are fewer men who are sexual assault survivors, it is still a problem among men as well. One sexual assault is too many. Often times, with issues related to public health, so much of our time gets caught up in response. It takes a great deal of time, energy and strategy to get ahead of an issue to prevent it from occurring. This is exactly what Culture of Care aims to do: prevent these incidents from occurring before they become problematic.

IU Bloomington students are working together to build a Culture of Care that aims to prevent incidents of sexual assault from occurring.

IU Bloomington students are working together to build a Culture of Care that aims to prevent incidents of sexual assault from occurring.

What does this look like for sexual assault prevention? Through Culture of Care and programs such as the Step UP! IU bystander intervention training program, we encourage students to take action. Culture of Care is a student-led and staff supported initiative that is aimed at making compassionate action the norm. We know from a survey that we conducted when we were developing our program in the fall of 2011 that nearly 89 percent of students were very bothered when they witnessed inappropriate sexual behavior. That is a powerful number. Our role now is to help students identify the risks of a situation and to give them the skills and resources to help someone out before a sexual assault occurs.

Having the Courage to Care can take a variety of forms. Here are some actions that students are doing during trainings and activities to better prepare them to step up in different situations.

Before going out:

  • Make a plan with your friends before you go out. Talk about how you are going to get home in advance and keep an eye out for each other. Don’t let your friend go home with someone when they are really intoxicated. Get the other person’s number and have your friend text him or her the next day.
  • Set a limit on how much alcohol you and your friends will consume and keep track. Watching out for each other and how much your friends are drinking can help avoid a predicament.
  • Designate one of your friends to be the “social monitor” each time you go out and rotate this position. That person should be responsible for watching out for everyone and helping to get them home safely.
  • Download the Circle of 6 app which is available for free. This app allows you to put six people into your “circle” to whom you can easily contact for help. Visit http://www.circleof6app.com/ to learn more.

While you are out:

  • If you see two people who are about to go somewhere to hook up, there are several things that you can do to break up the situation. Note: Someone who is not sober is not able to give consent to sexual activity. So, if your friend has been drinking, stop the situation before it gets bad for any of the people involved.
  • Here are some things that you can do “in the moment”:
    • Ask friends of both people to help you stop a potential risky situation
    • Distract your friends – Encourage them to get up and dance or order some food. Pizza and breadsticks seem to be a good trick!
    • Put your arm around a person and lead them away
    • Pretend that you have a crisis and need to talk to your friend. You can “pretend” that you are going to bring your friend back, but distract them instead.
    • Get the person’s number and tell them that your friend will text him/her the next day. Waiting, especially if someone has been drinking or using drugs, is always a good idea.

If you think a friend has been sexually assaulted or is in an unhealthy relationship:

  • Check in with your friend.
  • Ask if your friend is okay. Use “I” statements such as “I’ve noticed” or “I’m concerned about you.” This will help your friend feel less defensive.
  • Support and believe your friend. It is never the fault of the sexual assault survivor.
  • Encourage your friend to talk to someone. Sexual Assault Crisis Services (SACS) has a 24-hour line (812) 855-8900 that someone can call for assistance. Counseling at SACS is available at no cost. To schedule an appointment with a SACS counselor, call Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 812-855-5711 and ask specifically to meet with a Sexual Assault Crisis counselor.
  • If your friend is interested in reporting the incident, they can meet with someone at Student Advocates Office to learn about their options. To schedule an appointment call (812) 855-0761 or email advocate@indiana.edu.

What is unfortunate about sexual assault is that it will be incredibly challenging to prevent every incident from occurring. That is the reality. Just like with illnesses such as cancer, we can work together to lower risks, but unfortunately, problems do arise. But the bottom line is that we can all work together to prevent incidents from occurring and to take care of each other if they have occurred. Creating a culture of care means that we are creating a supportive and safe environment. It takes everyone. Have the Courage to Care.

To learn more about Culture of Care and to see Hoosiers stepping up to show they care, check out Culture of Care’s video, “The Bystanders” and visit us online at care.indiana.edu. Resources available at IU and in the community are available here.

*Note: These suggestions and tips have been developed with the help of students and several staff members on campus from Sexual Assault Crisis Services, OASIS, Counseling and Psychological Services and the Office of Student Ethics.


Fisher, B.S., Cullen, F.T., & Turner, M.G. (2000). The sexual victimization of college women. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,