By BELLA LAWRENCE
Making the choice to attend extra training on social behaviors and responsibilities can, at times, seem superfluous. Most people would like to believe that they know the right way to conduct themselves in a respectful, honest, and safe way with the ability to be there for community members, peers, friends, and loved ones. However, that may not always be the case.
On Tuesday, Sept. 10, the Wellness Resource Center hosted their first Being Aware, Deciding to Act, and Saying Something active bystander training of 2019. BADASS training is a great way to get an introduction to all of the information and resources that the Wellness Resource Center has to offer. The training lasted for two hours and endeavored to offer students information on how to best become active bystanders. An active bystander, as described by Montana Bass, one of the Wellness Resource Center paraprofessionals, is an individual who is trained to “positively impact the outcome of a situation.”
The issues tackled throughout the training centered around three main interlocking themes: systems of oppression, mental health, and substance abuse. The first, systems of oppression, affects how close each individual is to both experiencing and perpetrating harm. It was emphasized at the beginning of the training that “not only are all of these systems always operating, they are operating at different levels.”
At the center of the themes is sexual violence. This, said Bass, is because “people are both likely to be victimized and to perpetrate sexual assault when there’s alcohol and other substances involved,” “an experience of sexual assault, an experience of trauma, can trigger a mental health crisis,” and because “victims or survivors of sexual assault, depending on the other aspects of their identity, are going to be differently able to access care and support and resources.”
At the center of the themes is sexual violence. This, according to Bass, is because “people are both more likely to be victimized and to perpetrate sexual assault when there’s alcohol and other substances involved. An experience of sexual assault, which is an experience of trauma, can trigger a mental health crisis,” and because “victims or survivors of sexual assault, depending on the other aspects of their identity, are going to be differently able to access care and support and resources.”
After an introduction and interrogation of the ways that various positionalities can impact both the ability to be a BADASS and the likelihood of becoming a victim, the training split into groups to discuss various scenarios. Discussing separately and then back as a whole team, the groups split off three times to unpack the scenarios in terms of the systems operating, barriers to action, and how to speak up.
In an interview the following day, Bass said that she thought the training had gone well. “One indicator [is that] it was well attended, which was really exciting, but obviously that’s not everything,” she said. Other signs included active student participation, questions, and discussion — the presence of which indicate that “we’re giving [them] enough content that they feel like they have something to say.”
For Bass, the training is striving for “a balance of info that isn’t so far fetched to them so that they have a base of knowledge already to work in to discussion, but also that it’s not like they already knew this all and it’s too easy.”
As for the most important takeaway, Bass emphasized ongoing engagement. “I hope that people are recognizing the importance of working together to create a compassionate community,” she said. “That’s one of the goals we outline from the beginning, kind of the work of this office. There’s a lot that goes into what that means when we say compassionate community.”
When asked what she would offer to a student who wasn’t sure about attending a BADASS training, Bass returned to a metaphor that was addressed the previous night at training.
“Put on your own oxygen mask first,” she said, emphasizing that if a student feels like “I just have my own mental health struggles, and I can’t think about taking this on right now, we would encourage them to take care of themselves first and seek resources.”
“The reality is that every single student is falling along a spectrum of mental health, has an identity that falls within systems of oppression, is in a culture that has unhealthy norms around substance abuse,” Bass continued. “Every student is being affected by and is vulnerable to these topics that we’re talking about.”
For this reason, it’s so important to take the time to learn how to show up “for the people at CC that you love.”
In order to find out more about WRC programming like BADASS, students can reach out to Ysabel Trujillo, also a paraprofessional at the Wellness Resource Center, at firstname.lastname@example.org for updates on upcoming BADASS training and programming.