What’s in a name? Quite a lot, according to La Shonda Coleman, new director of the Center for Women and Men (CWM). That’s why she created the Sexual Assault Resource Center within the CWM.
“CWM has always provided education, counseling and advocacy,” she explained. “We already provide sexual assault resources, but what’s changed is labeling it so it’s clear for students.”
But she wants the center to do even more.
“My vision for the CWM Sexual Assault Resource Center is that we will empower our community to reflect the values of respect, inclusion, safety, social responsibility and healthy engagement for all,” Coleman noted.
During Welcome Week, Coleman and her staff shared that vision when they collaborated with Residential Education to provide mandatory training on sexual assault and dating violence prevention for incoming freshmen and transfer students. The training included Fostering a Respectful Community, a film Coleman helped rewrite so that it ended with students demonstrating the Trojan trait of courage by stepping up and speaking out about rape.
Coleman, a licensed clinical social worker who earned her Master of Social Work from the USC School of Social Work, came to USC from the Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, where she worked as an outreach program coordinator. She’ll be able to draw on that experience as she expands CWM’s prevention education, outreach, training and counseling services.
Her mission involves the creation of opportunities for the campus community to be part of the solution.
“Our team wants students, staff, faculty, administrators, parents and alumni to feel confident in our approach to preventing and addressing issues of gender-based violence campus-wide,” she said. “Gender-related harm is everyone’s issue.”
CWM will also extend the reach of its support groups to include male survivors of sexual assaults, students with disabilities, those who have encountered intimate partner violence, LGBTQ students and students who have returned from the military.
Coleman is especially excited about the student leadership program the center is launching. Participants will go through 16 hours of training to learn how to connect students who have experienced sexual violence with campus resources.
“We want to train a body of students to be change agents,” Coleman said.
Her plans also include connecting with faculty to give brief presentations about CWM services that she hopes will progress into longer discussions about rape culture, rape myths, defining and preventing sexual assault and fostering a respectful community.
Coleman said she hopes that “within two or three years, students will no longer say things oppressive to another person related to gender, race or ethnicity, but if they do, it would be natural for someone to say, ‘You know, that’s not OK.’ ”