Fighting Ignorance and Rape through Education
FIRE! Sexual assault peer educators are a collective of Western Michigan University students committed to educating their peers and others in the WMU community about sexual assault risk reduction and prevention. FIRE’s vision is to create a campus culture that actively and effectively responds to sexual assault in an attempt to eradicate it from the WMU campus and ultimately, society at large. Our program provides education on support services for survivors and strategies for ending sexual assault on our campus and in our community.
Our program goals are:
- To educate students about the definitions of sexual harassment and assault by providing a forum for discussion. This includes issues of consent, force, myths about rape, the relationship of alcohol and drugs to sexual assault and the concept of “victim blaming.”
- To teach students skills in helping someone who discloses a sexual assault.
- To educate students about the available resources for survivors of sexual assault on and off campus.
- To provide campus-wide outreach to a variety of students, as well as faculty and staff on campus.
- To include and not alienate males in the process of educating and raising awareness about sexual assault, while highlighting men’s ability and responsibility to prevent violence against women.
Our broader goals are:
- Institute a campus-wide response to violence against women.
- Establish a fair and supportive campus adjudication process.
- Educate faculty and staff on issues related to sexual assault.
- Invest in comprehensive and accessible on-campus and community services to victims.
- See that training on violence against women for all campus law enforcement exists.
- Form partnerships with local victim service programs and criminal justice agencies.
- Focus a great deal of time and attention on first-year residential students.
FIRE meets regularly to educate ourselves on sexual assault and to hone our advocacy skills and knowledge. In addition to presenting on the topic in classrooms, residence halls, etc., we also meet to address advocacy issues on campus, including student-run media sources (newspaper, radio, etc.), written materials provided to students, and training programs for faculty members.
FIRE organizes various programs, on and off campus, including Take Back the Night, an annual event that aims to empower survivors of sexual assault through keynote speakers, a march through campus, and speak-outs from survivors, supporters, and advocates. The unifying theme of Take Back the Night is the assertion that all human beings have the right to be free from violence, the right to be heard, and the right to reclaim those rights if they are violated.
Becoming a peer educator
Members are required to participate in a set number of presentations per semester, and are encouraged to get involved in other ways through committees and planning. Members must participate for at least two semesters.
If you are interested in joining FIRE sexual assault peer educators or wish to learn more about the program, please email SHC-FIREpeered@wmich.edu.
You may also want to learn more about FIRE Place—our resource and support center that addresses the issues of Sexual Assault and other bias incidents.