New students learn about Project SAFE at Rice

O-Week is full of barbecues, celebrations and social activities, but it’s also a time for new students to learn about critical campus resources available to them. On Aug. 23, Rice’s new Owls attended sessions offering more information about the university’s new Project SAFE (Sexual Assault-Free Environment).

Project SAFE is a collaboration among the Student Well-being Office, the Rice Counseling Center and the Houston Area Women’s Center (HAWC). During three-hour workshops that will be offered throughout the year, the project will give students an introduction to the terms and definitions that surround sexual violence, provide a framework for understanding why violence occurs in society and on college campuses and begin a conversation about consent and nonconsent, with Rice-specific scenarios as examples.

“Our priority is that Rice be an environment free of sexual assault,” said Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson. “To meet this priority, we need our students to know how to respect one another, how to treat each other and how to care for one another. I am impressed by how quickly and effectively the new partnership between HAWC and our offices at Rice has produced new training, programs and workshops for our students.”

Participants learn how to respond if a peer discloses an assault to them, including how to connect students to campus resources such as the Rice University Police Department, the Rice Counseling Center and Student Judicial Programs as well as off-campus resources through HAWC.

Patrick Lukingbeal, a staff member in Rice’s Student Well-being Office, said that for more than a year a year, the office has been having conversations about increasing Rice’s education around sexual violence prevention and response. He and Kasey McKee, a clinical counselor for the Rice Counseling Center, are the coordinators of Project SAFE.

“Over time, we’ve been listening to the campus community, and this is a topic that many people are interested in,” Lukingbeal said. “The program developed from what we’ve been hearing from Rice students.” He noted that leading up to the creation of Project SAFE, the Wellness Center has worked with the HAWC in various capacities the last several years.

“HAWC is known as the community expert on this topic, so we felt they would be a great agency to partner with to kind of help us deliver the newest of the new information and help our students understand what they can do to prevent but also respond to these sorts of situations,” he said.

Prior to O-Week, all of the O-Week coordinators and advisers received Project SAFE training. Lukingbeal said the program is not just for new students, but for all undergraduate and graduate students.

“It’s a great way for students who are interested to learn how to identify and prevent sexual violence and help people take advantage of resources on campus,” he said.

For more information, visit http://wellbeing.rice.edu/ProjectSafe/ or call 713-348-3311.

About Amy Hodges

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.